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There is no question that your choice of spouse has a big impact on your life—from where you live to who you hang out with to what you do in your leisure time. But, there is more: New research shows that your spouse’s personality also affects your own job satisfaction, pay grade, and advancement, even after accounting for your own personality traits. Marrying “for richer or poorer” actually carries implications for whether you will be richer or poorer—at least as far as your job is concerned.

Why? Partners who are more conscientious (meaning they show self-discipline, are prepared in the situations they face, and pay attention to details) put in more time helping out around the house day-to-day, model responsible and organized behavior, and help create a home life that enables their spouses to focus on their work.

To show the power of one’s partner, researchers followed several thousand married couples (over 4,500 total individuals) over the course of five years. About 25 percent of the households were single-income, meaning only one spouse worked; in the other 75 percent of households, both spouses worked.

During the first year of the study, researchers assessed the personality traits of each member of the participating couples using the "Big 5" personality measures of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. People were also asked whether they (as opposed to their spouses) usually managed household chores such as doing dishes, preparing meals, running errands, and handling common household repairs. Measures of shared lifestyle (“Who makes the decisions about social life and leisure activities in your households?”) and relationship satisfaction were also taken.

In each subsequent year of the study, occupational success (for those individuals who worked) was assessed by measures of job satisfaction (“How satisfied are you with your job?”). Income and information about recent job promotions were also collected.

As it happens, the impact of a partner's personality goes way beyond the home, spilling into the workplace—for both men and women. When partners create the right conditions at home, their spouses thrive in the workplace. They are better able to concentrate on work when they need to, predicting better job satisfaction, higher earnings, and advancement success.

Solomon, B. C. & Jackson , J. J. (2014). The Long Reach of One's Spouse: Spouses' Personality Influences Occupational Success. Psychological Science.

 

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About the Author

Sian Beilock, Ph.D.

Sian Beilock, Ph.D., is a psychology professor at The University of Chicago and an expert on the brain science behind performance failure under pressure.

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