Fertilizer for your Relationship

Many couples struggle to have the relationship they once hoped for, [1] but there are tools they can use to enhance the quality of their relationship. When we think about improving relationships, it’s easy to consider ways in which negative behaviors might be improved. We can draw comparisons between taking care of a relationship and tending to a garden. Not only does a gardener spend time pulling weeds to improve the nutrient and water supply for the plants in a garden, time is spent watering the garden and providing fertilizer to enhance the fruitfulness of the harvest. Similarly, couples benefit from weeding out negative conflict behaviors from their relationship. While pruning the negative behaviors is necessary, the success and longevity of a relationship can be enhanced by engaging in supportive behaviors. Interestingly, research studies suggest that support behaviors predict relationship satisfaction, relationship dissolution, and change in conflict, [2,3,4] demonstrating the importance of adding fertilizer to the garden.

The Healthy Connections blog is beginning a series on the intricacies of support behaviors in relationships. To kick off this series, it is important to point out that support processes can be complex. For example, more support does not always mean that your partner will be more satisfied. [5] It is important that we are aware of the type, quality, and amount of support our partner desires so that we can meet their needs during stressful times. Matching the type of support your partner wants with the type that you offer your partner will influence how your partner perceives the support you are providing [6,7,8,9]. Since support behaviors are predictive of relationship outcomes, the goal of this series is to provide readers with insight into the various types of support behaviors and the ways they can be implemented in their relationships. Stay tuned to learn more about the best type, quality, and amount of fertilizer for various stages of relationships.


  1. Karney and Bradbury, “The Longitudinal Course of Marital Quality and Stability.”
  2. Lawrence A. Kurdek, “Gender and Marital Satisfaction Early in Marriage: A Growth Curve Approach,” Journal of Marriage and Family 67, no. 1 (2005): 68–84, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00006.x.
  3. Pasch and Bradbury, “Social Support, Conflict, and the Development of Marital Dysfunction.”
  4. Sullivan et al., “Social Support, Problem Solving, and the Longitudinal Course of Newlywed Marriage.”
  5. Brock and Lawrence, “Support Adequacy in Marriage.”
  6. Carolyn E. Cutrona, “Stress and Social Support—in Search of Optimal Matching,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 9, no. 1 (March 1, 1990): 3–14, https://doi.org/10.1521/jscp.1990.9.1.3.
  7. Pasch and Bradbury, “Social Support, Conflict, and the Development of Marital Dysfunction.”
  8. Reynolds and Perrin, “Mismatches in Social Support and Psychosocial Adjustment to Breast Cancer.”
  9. Sullivan and Davila, Support Processes in Intimate Relationships.