Imagining the perfect relationship partner, it’s easy to list off desired traits, whether you are looking for a film buff who will discuss the latest Cannes nominees or a fitness enthusiast who will run a half-marathon with you. You may think about all of the interesting and exciting experiences that you can share together. What you might not be thinking about is how your choice in a partner can affect your life outside of your relationship. New research proposes that your romantic partner’s personality may have implications for your own success at work (Solomon & Jackson, 2014).
Researchers analyzed data from a large, nationally-representative survey of Australian married couples collected over the course of 5 years. Initially, couples individually filled out personality measures, and then answered yearly follow-up surveys with questions about occupational success, such as job satisfaction, income, and job promotion as well as questions about their marriage and relationship satisfaction.
Results found that having a spouse who is high on the personality trait of conscientiousness is associated with increased partner workplace success. Specifically, having a conscientious spouse was associated with greater job satisfaction, higher income, and greater likelihood of job promotion over the course of the study compared to people who had a spouse who was low in conscientiousness. This effect held even when accounting for an individual’s own level of conscientiousness.
What is it about having a conscientious partner that makes your workplace experiences better? Researchers looked at how relationship satisfaction, allocation of household chores, and partner emulation can help explain the relationship between spouse conscientiousness and partner occupational success. They found that having a conscientious spouse was associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Having a happy relationship may have a spill-over effect, facilitating more positive work experiences. Conscientious partners also reported doing more household chores. When your spouse helps out with household obligations, it may be easier to focus your energies at work. Additionally, conscientious partners may serve as positive role models for behavior, encouraging conscientiousness in their spouses, with downstream effects in their workplace endeavors.
You may be thinking about the stereotypical gender implications of this research, where a homemaker wife supports a breadwinner husband. However, this research found no differences between genders for this effect. Both men and women benefitted equally from having a conscientious spouse. Additionally, this effect was found for both dual and single income households. Conscientious spouses are associated with their partner’s workplace success even when both members of the couple work outside the home.
Having an organized and supportive partner may be important for more than just your romantic relationship. Being in a happy relationship where your partner helps with chores and provides a positive role model for behavior may help you to thrive at your workplace. If you are currently single, think about how your potential partners can have an impact on your personal successes and professional life.
Solomon, B. C., & Jackson, J. J. (2014). The long reach of one’s spouse: Spouses’ personality influences occupational success. Psychological Science, 25, 2189-2198.