Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce Are Both Playing a Game-Changing Relationship Role

written by HAILEY BOUCHE
Source: Getty
Source: Getty

Supporting your partner is one thing, but being their cheerleader? That’s another thing entirely. It should feel natural to support your partner’s odd quirks and unwavering dedication to their favorite sports team, but truly celebrating their successes and showing up for them whether it’s convenient for you or not? Well, that takes a whole other level of dedication, commitment, and hard work. It’s the dynamic I strive for in my relationship, and I imagine most of you feel the same or, at the very least, strive to have it with someone one day.

We’ve seen this play out flawlessly between Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce since their relationship went public back in September. Among quite possibly the most chaotic and exciting year of both of their careers, they have repeatedly shown up for each other in person when they could and in spirit when they couldn’t (I mean, did you see the $8k bouquet Travis sent to Taylor for the Grammys?!). Of course, we’ve seen them mostly while he’s been on the field, and she’s been the literal cheerleader in the stands (AKA the luxury box seats), but they are proving that the cheerleader role goes much further than what we see during game time, and, is in fact, two-sided.

We can’t all relate to the scale of flying across the world for one another weekend after weekend, but we can learn a thing or two about the importance of this dynamic in a relationship and why experts say that it’s the key to long-lasting partnerships. I reached out to the team over at Manhattan Wellness to dive deeper into this topic, and what they had to say might make you admire T+T even more. Plus, they’re teaching us a thing or two about how to perfect the cheerleader role in our relationships, too.

What does it mean to be someone’s cheerleader?

We know all too well how important it is to be your partner’s biggest fan, but what does that really entail? According to Elizabeth Marks, LMSW, “Being someone’s cheerleader isn’t just about cheering them on when they are literally or figuratively scoring in life.” Instead, “it involves celebrating their successes, providing emotional support during setbacks, and believing in their abilities even when they may doubt themselves,” says Colette Sachs, LMSW.

Football references aside, you take the role of supporter and kick it up a notch, acting as your partner’s biggest advocate and source of motivation. For example, let’s say your partner is up for a promotion. When you find out whether or not they got it, you could say, “Oh my gosh, congratulations!” or “Ugh, that sucks, I’m sorry,” to communicate your support. But a cheerleader would take it a step further—maybe treating them to a special dinner to celebrate or giving them the validation they need to feel less let down by the news. The difference lies in the authenticity of your response and the effort you put into showing up for them.

Being a cheerleader also comes with showing up at all times, physically and in spirit, whether it fits into your already packed schedule or not. For example, Taylor and Travis are both having a record year, so from the outside looking in, celebrating each other’s successes must be easy, right? Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but they are pretty busy people. Being physically present for one another didn’t come without sacrifices like long flights, jet lag, and balancing other important responsibilities and priorities (practices, award shows, and even more importantly, rest!). According to Taylor, “jet lag is a choice,” but we think the real choice is being there for Travis or not. As his cheerleader, she chooses to be there despite what else she has going on.

Being a cheerleader comes with showing up at all times, physically and in spirit, whether it fits into your already packed schedule or not.

What are the benefits?

Being a cheerleader does more than make the other person feel good. It can help “build each partner’s confidence in themselves, each other, and the relationship,” says Marks. Basically, she explains that having someone who wants to cheer for you is incredible validation that you’re supported in whatever it is you’re working toward (no matter the outcome), and what comes with that is the feeling of knowing you chose the right person.

In times of challenges, “it helps the partner facing difficulties to feel understood, valued, and less alone in their struggles, ultimately deepening trust and intimacy,” says Sachs. And in times of success, shared joy and accomplishment “creates an atmosphere of mutual celebration, reinforcing feelings of love and connection,” she adds.

Additionally, since your partner needs to know what they’re cheering for to be decent at it, your relationship requires an increased sense of openness, active listening, and understanding of one another. For example, if you are having a disagreement with a friend, opening up to your partner about what’s going on would help them understand what you’re going through. If you didn’t communicate your feelings, how are they supposed to know how to show up for you? Honesty and vulnerability in a relationship open the door for a deeper level of support and ultimately strengthen your bond.

Why is it so important that the cheerleader role is two-sided?

Aside from the fact that cheering for someone who doesn’t cheer for you sounds incredibly frustrating and exhausting, always being on the sidelines for someone else and never having anyone on yours can be isolating and lead to resentment of your partner. Let’s take Travis and Taylor, for example—if we only ever saw Taylor traveling to Travis’ games and never saw Travis traveling to Taylor’s concerts, we’d wonder why she was the only one bending over backward to see and support him. Just like anything in a relationship (communication, trust, sex), if only one person is making it a priority, you can’t thrive.

Sachs reassures us that while yes, we both must play this role, “we don’t have to cheerlead the same way” for the dynamic to be reciprocated. This means we don’t have to show up for each other in the exact same ways (that would feel predictable, boring, and inauthentic), but we do have to share that joy, passion, and pride for each other. This can be related to the idea of love languages. You and your partner might show love in different ways, but that doesn’t mean that either one of you does it better than the other. What’s important is that it’s reciprocated. Otherwise, you’ll feel disconnected. Sachs says, “Think of any see-saw: The weight has to be distributed evenly to some degree to have a good time.”

We don’t have to show up for each other in the exact same ways, but we do have to share that joy, passion, and pride for each other

What can we do if it’s not?

If you are in a relationship (or a friendship!) where the cheerleader role feels one-sided, there’s really only one thing you can do: communicate. It’s your job to be open and honest about what you’re feeling, whether that’s disappointment, frustration, sadness, or resentment. But before you bring up how you’re feeling to your partner, it’s important that you get clear about the exact feeling(s) you’re experiencing and come prepared with examples so they can better understand when and how they contributed to you feeling that way.

For example, let’s say that you had a bad day at work and aren’t feeling up to the plans you had to go out with friends. You tell your partner that you’d really rather stay in and unwind, but they decide to go out anyway, leaving you at home. You sit alone in your apartment that night feeling unsupported, a little lonely, and sad. When your partner got laid off, you were there to support and reassure them that things would get better and even helped them brush up on their interview skills so they felt reinvigorated. You wish that they were there for you like you were there for them.

Communicating your true feelings about this isn’t about making your partner feel bad—rather, it’s about expressing that the cheerleader role in your relationship feels lopsided. Your partner might not even realize their behavior is upsetting you or causing resentment, so by communicating, you give them an opportunity to improve. If you have this conversation and still notice that there are many instances where you feel like you’re the only cheerleader around, it might be time to reevaluate whether or not your partner is right for you.