Posted on: October 16, 2019 at 9:07 am
Last updated: October 16, 2019 at 9:08 am

Spot-on discovery, experts! A ‘significant other’ is not just a fancy phrase to describe one’s spouse.

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Marriage as a happy union enables a person to channel the best version of themselves to the forefront. They begin to evolve positively and strive to give the best of what they have in everything they do, especially their careers. On the other hand, marriage as a stressful life event can lead to the detriment of a person’s mental wellbeing. As the saying goes, health is wealth. No one can focus on pushing their careers forward or strategizing accurately for their businesses if they’re constantly in the wrong frame of mind. Being with the wrong person can do that (and worse) to you.

A relatively recent 2017 study  conducted by researchers in the Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania reports that people  with supportive spouses were more likely to “take on potentially rewarding challenges and that those who accepted the challenges experienced more personal growth, happiness, psychological well-being, and better relationship functioning months later [1].”

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A supportive spouse is a super boost to self-confidence

Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the study involved the social evaluation of 163 married couples [2]. Each member of each couple was asked to choose one of two tasks to engage in: They could either choose to enter a competition to win a prize or to solve a simple puzzle. 

The researchers analyzed the interaction of the couples before they made their decisions. It was discovered that those with supportive spouses were more likely to take on the daunting competition, while those who lacked confidence and support from their spouses opted for the simple puzzle.

At a later evaluation six months later, a great percentage of those who had opted for the competition reported that they were interacting much better with their spouses. They also reported to basking more in personal growth, self-confidence, and mental wellbeing.  

“We found support for the idea that the choices people make at these specific decision points—such as pursuing a work opportunity or seeking out new friends—matter a lot for their long-term well-being,” said Brooke Feeney, a professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “Significant others can help you thrive through embracing life opportunities. Or they can hinder your ability to thrive by making it less likely that you’ll pursue opportunities for growth.”

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How to be a supportive spouse

According to the research, there are three key attitudes a person can adopt to encourage their spouse to take on bigger career challenges:

1.Express enthusiasm about an opportunity

Always look at an idea from the bright side. There may be a few stumbling blocks to an opportunity but they can be discussed later. Do not plunge head-first into negativity. Explore all the wonderful possible outcomes of a new venture. Let your enthusiasm be genuine. Human beings subconsciously pick up negative vibes from body language and even a person’s tone of voice. Do not let your spouse be discouraged by pessimistic dispositions. 

However, you should also tell them the truth if you believe the opportunity has a great potential of destroying their careers. If it seems like a badly calculated risk, gently share your opinion with them. 

2. Reassure your partner

Often, your spouse would want to take on a new career venture but will be derailed by the fear of failure. They may be scared of anything from lack of funds and organizational support to bankruptcy and rejection. Reassure them that there is no carefully planned step in the career climb that does not have a risk attached to it. Fear will only stagnate them. Let them know how brave and courageous they are, and never let your reassurance waver. They are counting on you to be a huge support system.

3. Discuss the benefits of taking on a new role or challenge

Dwelling only on the things that could go wrong will only push a person back further. Engage your partner in hearty discussions about the benefits of stepping up to the chase and taking on bigger things. Encourage them to always have the bigger picture in sight and stay focused on the end game – and the next level.

4. If you doubt it, hear it from the world’s favorite power couples

A power couple consists of romantic or married partners who are successful and influential in their own rights. If one person is flawed, the other partner makes up for this weakness with their own strengths. Power couples support each other and are constantly aiming to be the best at what individually they do. In simple terms, they are the real relationship goals. 

First on the list is Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO and the 8th richest person in the world as of Spring 2019. In his 2017 commencement speech at a program held at Harvard, Zuckerberg talked about meeting his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan in college [3].  According to him, Priscilla has been an integral part of his success and the motivation behind his philanthropy.

Priscilla’s the most important person in my life so you can say, it’s the most important thing I built in my time here (Harvard),” he said.

In 2011, Barrack Obama admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he owes his political success to his wife, Michelle Obama [4].

Obviously, I couldn’t have done anything that I’ve done without Michelle,” Obama said. “You were asking earlier what keeps me sane, what keeps me balanced, what allows me to deal with the pressure. It is this young lady right here… Not only has she been a great first lady, she is just my rock. I count on her in so many ways every single day.”

Of course, this study is not in any way suggesting that people who choose to remain single cannot be successful. Nor is it saying that it is only females that encourage or help their partners, it can go both ways. Marriage,  is not an essential requirement for success, but if you must get married, it’s recommended that you marry that person who loves you, supports you, and is eager to share in your dreams. Also, you should share the same interests in that person’s life. 

  1. Patrick Monahan. Supportive Relationships Linked to Willingness to Pursue Opportunities. Carnegie Mellon University. https://www.cmu.edu/dietrich/news/news-stories/2017/august/supportive-spouses-brooke-feeny.html. Retrieved 11-10-19
  2. Genefe Navilon. The secret to your success is who you marry: psychologists. Idea Pod. https://ideapod.com/the-secret-to-your-success-is-who-you-marry-new-study-shows/. Retrieved 11-10-19
  3. The Harvard Gazette. Mark Zuckerberg’s Commencement address at Harvard. Harvard. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/05/mark-zuckerbergs-speech-as-written-for-harvards-class-of-2017/. Retrieved 11-10-19
  4. Oprah Winfrey News. Barack Obama Opens Up About Michelle: “She Is Just My Rock”. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTs-IMVSNKY. Retrieved 11-10-19
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