If you dream of changing your career, launching your own business, or inventing the latest and greatest must-have gadget, you’ll want to think very carefully about who you marry. Turns out, a supportive spouse is one of the most important ingredients in the success formula. Read on to learn about the study that led to this discovery.
A Supportive Spouse Is the Secret to Success, Study Shows
I think we all know that a supportive spouse can make all the difference when we’re embarking on a new career journey. Our spouses are among the most important people in our lives, after all. If they’re right beside us, building us up and encouraging us, it makes sense that we’d have a better chance of succeeding. We don’t need a study to tell us that! Still, it’s always nice when science proves us right, isn’t it!
A 2017 study performed by Carnegie Mellon University psychologists gives us that extra proof we need. As Patrick Monahan (who wrote up the story for CMU’s news page) explains, countless studies focus on how our social lives affect us in a negative way. Brooke Feeney the CMU psychologist who led the study wanted to look at the reverse. How do the people in our social circles- especially our partners- help us succeed?
How do our partners help us succeed?
Feeney and her team of researchers rounded up 163 married couples and brought them to their lab. Once there, they presented one half of each couple with a choice, “either solve a simple puzzle, or take the opportunity to compete for a prize.”
After offering the choice, Feeney’s team studied and recorded the couples as they discussed whether or not to take the challenge. What they discovered isn’t terribly surprising, but interesting, nonetheless. Participants with spouses to encouraged them to go for it and were far more likely to try for the prize. On the other hand, those who had discouraging partners opted to just solve the easy puzzle.
As Monahan explains, during a six-month follow-up, participants who opted for the harder task claimed that they experienced more happiness, personal growth, and better relationships than their counterparts.
“Significant others can help you thrive through embracing life opportunities,” said Feeney. “Or they can hinder your ability to thrive by making it less likely that you’ll pursue opportunities for growth.”
What do other scientists say about the benefit of having a supportive spouse?
As we well know, one study isn’t enough to prove or disprove anything. There’s a reason why scientists seem like they’re repeating the same research over and over again (like this study about diet soda followed by this one on all diet drinks, for example). No, it’s not just to use up their research funding! It’s to back up (or disprove) previous findings.
So, what do other scientists have to say about the benefits of supportive spouses? Let’s take a look at a few different studies to find out.
- A 2012 Florida State University study found that supportive spouses help us better cope with work-related stress. Among other things, those with supportive spouses reported “25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work.”
- A 2018 Wake Forest University study backed up those findings, showing that a supportive spouse can significantly reduce our overall stress levels.
- A supportive spouse can even be good for your heart, according to a 2011 University of Rochester study.
What, exactly, makes a spouse supportive?
Before we go over what it means a supportive spouse, I think we need to talk about what it doesn’t mean. A lot of “how to be a supportive spouse” guides use way too many variations of the word “let” in them. As in, a supportive husband lets his wife make decisions, a supportive wife allows her husband to follow his dreams. Look, the words “let” and “allow” don’t belong in a marriage.
Marriage is a partnership. It’s not a parent/child relationship, and your spouse isn’t your pet. You let kids stay up late, or allow dogs to sleep on the couch. You don’t let and allow your husband or wife to do anything. If you have to ask permission to do something, you’re not in a marriage; you’re in a dictatorship. So, let’s completely remove the word “let” from the criteria for a supportive spouse.
Supporting each other means working together to make each other’s dreams come true
Now, that doesn’t mean that you should just go out and do whatever you want without any regard for your spouse (or vice-versa). A big part of supporting each other means giving each other a safe space to talk about hopes and dreams, but both parties also need to be free to share their fears as well.
Maybe your spouse wants to quit work and go back to school to pursue a lifelong dream. You fully support that but at the same time, you worry about financial logistics. You shouldn’t feel like you just have to keep your mouth shut and say, “Go for it.” You should, however, actively listen to your partner, act as a sounding board, and work together to find a way to make that dream come true.
Give each other room to make mistakes and catch each other when they fall
Truly supporting each other means giving each other room to make mistakes and fail, without judgment and definitely without saying, “I told you so.” Honestly, if you’re truly supportive then you wouldn’t have said, “You’ll fail” in the first place, so there shouldn’t even be a reason to say, “I told you so.” Supporting each other means catching each other when you fall, or better yet, holding each other up so you don’t fall in the first place. Encourage each other often. Say, “You’ve got this,” and mean it.
You may have different ideas of what being supportive entails. For me, though, I think these definitions and synonyms for the word really say it all:
- Hold up, shore up, keep up, prop up, brace
- Help, assist, champion, boost, be on the side of
- Sustain, take care of, look after
- Give moral support, be a source of strength, comfort, fortify, console, reassure
The right spouse makes all the difference
Of course, you don’t have to be married to become a successful businessperson. Plenty of single people rose to fame and fortune on their own. However, if you are married, having a supportive spouse can absolutely make all the difference.
Just imagine it for yourself. Pretend you’re thinking about quitting your job and starting your own company. On the one hand, you have a spouse who encourages you, boosts your confidence, and tells you to go for it. On the other, you have one who tells you that it’s a bad idea, that your chances of success are nil, and that you should just stay where you are.
Which one do you think is more beneficial to your long-term success? I think it’s a no-brainer. I know that having a supportive spouse and a true partner has made all the difference in my own success. Everyone deserves someone who will build them up and encourage their dreams, wouldn’t you agree?
I hope you enjoyed learning about how a supportive spouse is the secret to success! If you’re interested in more fascinating relationship studies, find out why science says that couples who fight love each other more and how too much sleep and exercise could be ruining your marriage.