People with supportive spouses may experience more personal growth, happiness, psychological well-being, and better relationships, a study suggests. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in the US found that people with supportive spouses were more likely to take on potentially rewarding challenges. “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, lead author of the study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The researchers brought 163 married couples into the lab and gave one member of each couple a choice: either solve a simple puzzle, or they were given an opportunity to compete for a prize by giving a speech. They then recorded the couples’ interactions as they decided whether to take on the challenge. Participants with more encouraging partners were substantially more likely to decide to compete for the prize, while those with partners who discouraged them or expressed a lack of confidence more often chose the simple puzzle. Six months later, those who pursued the more challenging task reported having more personal growth, happiness, psychological well-being, and better relationships than those who did not.
The researchers found that the most supportive partners expressed enthusiasm about the opportunity, reassured their partners, and talked about the potential benefits of taking on the challenge. “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 will pursue opportunities for growth,” said Feeney.