When Support Provision Hurts: Examining Individual and Relational Risks of Supporting an Inconsolable Partner.
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When romantic partners provide support to one another, their attempts are not always successful in relieving the distress of the support recipient. While unsuccessful support transactions are sometimes caused by insufficient skills on the caregiver’s part, research has also shown that certain individuals struggle to feel better regardless of the quality of support that they receive. The overall goal of the present set of studies was to examine how individuals who are inconsolable (i.e., who typically do not feel better when they receive support) impact the self-esteem and relationship satisfaction of their romantic partners, as well as the likelihood that their romantic partners will continue to provide support to them in the future. Study 1 showed that individuals who perceived their romantic partners to be more inconsolable were less likely to be satisfied with their romantic relationships, particularly if they were male, or high in rejection sensitivity. These individuals were also less likely to report engaging in actual support behaviours toward their romantic partners, and in contrast to the finding pertaining to relationship satisfaction, this result was stronger among individuals low in rejection sensitivity. Study 2 showed that when individuals imagined themselves as the support provider in a vignette where the support recipient was inconsolable, they predicted that they would experience lower state self-esteem and romantic relationship satisfaction, and that they would be less likely to provide the partner with support in the future. Conversely, in Study 3 participants who recalled and wrote about a time in which their romantic partner was inconsolable did not predict providing their partners with less support in the future, however, they did report lower state self-esteem, and among individuals who were high in rejection sensitivity, lower relationship satisfaction. Overall, these findings suggest that inconsolable individuals negatively impact the self-esteem and romantic relationship satisfaction of their partners, particularly if their partners are high in rejection sensitivity. Further, inconsolable individuals may also be at risk for receiving less support over time.