Too much of a good thing can be bad, and the same goes for supporting your partner in a relationship; researchers warn.
Experts at University of Iowa found that being extra supportive or giving the wrong kind of support may actually backfire.
Erika Lawrence, associate professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said: "The idea that simply being more supportive is better for your marriage is a myth. Often husbands and wives think, 'If my partner really knows me and loves me, he or she will know I'm upset and will know how to help me.'
"However, that's not the best way to approach your marriage. Your partner shouldn't have to be a mind reader. Couples will be happier if they learn how to say, 'This is how I'm feeling, and this is how you can help me.'"
Lawrence and colleagues found that receiving more support than desired posed a greater risk factor for marital decline.
She said: "If you don't get enough support, you can make up for that with family and friends-especially women, who tend to have multiple sources of support. When you receive too much support, there's no way to adjust for that."
The paper, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, was co-authored by Rebecca L. Brock, a UI graduate student in psychology.
A related study showed that it was important for men that their wives provide the right kind of support, emotional, informational, tangible or esteem as needed while wives considered their husbands efforts to be supportive more significant.
Lawrence said: "The assumption is that men just want to be left alone and women want to be held and listened to. In reality, different men want different kinds of support, and different women want different kinds of support."
The paper was published in the journal Personal Relationships. Lawrence was the lead author, with co-authors from the University of Iowa, CIGNA Health Solutions, Santa Clara University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.