Trying to learn piano? Meet your deadline? Do Pilates? You might think a loving partner will keep you on track, but new research from Northwestern University shows the opposite: Thinking about how someone bolsters you can undermine your motivation. When we know another person will pitch in, we unconsciously rely on them to move our goals forward—and stop moving ourselves. But don't ditch your darling: In some cases, collective aims benefit from outsourcing. Here are the best and not-so-helpful ways to leverage your partner's support. —Michele Lent Hirsch
The Goal: Drop 10 pounds
Harm: Don't rely on your girlfriend to cook healthy meals. This sort of help "dilutes the degree to which you feel solely responsible," says researcher Eli Finkel. You'll think, "She's making veggies tonight"—and feel exempt from the gym.
Help: Use your ladyfriend as a cheerleader. If a partner makes positive remarks about your goals but doesn't promise dinner, you'll feel the onus to hop on the treadmill and actually pay attention to your food choices.
The Goal: Outshine Stevie Wonder
Harm: Though it's tempting, try not to have your husband teach you chords every Monday. Without realizing it, you'll procrastinate more Tuesday through Sunday, even if you intend to practice throughout the week.