People who have a conscientious spouse are more likely to have success in their own career than people with less attentive partners, according to a new study. So what are you supposed to do if your partner isn't putting in a fair share of effort?

By Ellen Seidman
September 22, 2014
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People who have a conscientious spouse are more likely to have success in their career than people with less attentive partners, according to a new study soon to be published in the journal Psychological Science.

Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis conducted a five-year study of nearly 5,000 married people, 75% of whom were dual-income couples. They found that both males and female workers who reported the highest rates of job satisfaction, salary increases, and the likelihood of being promoted tended to have one thing in common: spouses who scored high for conscientiousness. This was true regardless of gender and whether or not the spouse had a job themselves. In other words, few of their partners were likely to say, "No, you stay home from work to deal with the plumber."

The researchers point to three ways in which mindful spouses contribute to career achievement: First up, successful types may have spouses who handle a fair amount of day-to-day chores including buying groceries and childcare. Second, they may pick up habits from their conscientious spouses, putting traits like diligence and reliability to good use at the office. Last, they may have a better work-life balance—perhaps giving them a mental boost at work.

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Thing is, what are you supposed to do if a partner isn't putting in a fair share of effort? "Help them to truly empathize with your position—standing in your shoes is more likely to increase their desire to be helpful," says Gail Saltz, MD, Health's Contributing Psychology Editor. "Tell your partner how it makes you feel when they do more stuff around the house or with the kids, and tell them how it feels when they don't—and how it feels like all of it is on you."

Avoid finger-pointing, she continues. "Also, when your partner does little for you, you feel like doing little for them, and it becomes a vicious cycle. So make a point to specifically do some things for them you know they will appreciate. When they do pitch in, make sure to express your appreciation—rather than 'It's about time!'—because positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement. And if they pitch in enough that it takes down your stress level, remind them how much more romantic and affectionate you feel when you are not stressed!"

Your partner will be ever so pleasantly surprised when you come home from work and lavish him with love because the plumber fixed the leak.

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