Having a supportive spouse leads to a more rewarding life, finds study

So, what makes people more likely to give themselves the chance to succeed? According to a recent study, it's a supportive relationship.

The Carnegie Mellon University psychologists discovered 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.

"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 lead author Brooke Feeney. The researchers brought 163 married couples into the lab and gave one person from each couple a choice: either they had to solve a simple puzzle or they were given an opportunity to compete for a prize by giving a speech. The researchers then recorded the couples' interactions as they decided whether they would 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 didn't.

So what can one do to encourage a partner to embrace life's opportunities? 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's opportunities," said Feeney. "Or they can hinder your ability to thrive by making it less likely that you'll pursue opportunities for growth." The study is published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.


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