We all know that the person we marry affects our lives in 1,000 different ways big and small. Some might even say it is the most important decision of our lives.
And according to a new study from Washington University just published in Psychological Science, that is the truth. Our spouses actually do determine exactly how far we’ll go in our careers. If that sounds far-fetched, think again.
Our entire lives are determined largely by the person to whom we say “I do.” Consider this: Would you feel good about a hire with a crazy spouse? After all, if they married him, how great can their decision making skills be?
The study looked at nearly 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89, with both spouses working in about 75 percent of the samples. And what they found is that those who report happiness on the job are often married to spouses who rate high on the “conscientious” scale. Coincidence? I think not.
The fact is, any working person, male or female, is away from home a significant amount of time. Even those of us who work at home have our attention diverted away from the family, the laundry, the general day-to-day of our home life for a significant portion of our time each day. It makes things difficult. If we have a spouse who can balance us — pick up the slack, so to speak — we are going to be happier, both at work and at home.
But it’s more than that, too.
I have been married almost 12 years and in those years, I have definitely noticed a trend. When my husband is happy at home, I perform better at work. Our home life is more seamless. I have a place that feels safe and warm. I have something to come home to (even though I work from home). When he is having a stressful time, things are worse for me at work.
A good friend who is older than me and has been married 25 years once gave me the single best piece of marriage advice I ever had: “Both of you can’t stand up in the boat at the same time.” It’s so simple. And yet genius. As an avid kayaker, this particularly resonated. In a two-person kayak, both people standing means certain tippage. It’s a fact.
But it’s also true on the metaphoric level.
Last year my husband was heavily recruited by a new company. He was thrilled with it, but it was a big change. He went from no travel to nearly 50 percent travel and we’d also just had a new baby. At the time, I was deeply unhappy with my job as well, but it wasn’t my turn. I held the boat steady while he made his leap and settled into his new job. And while he did that, I stayed in my job and tended to the home, cooking dinners, checking homework, making sure the laundry was done, the dog was walked, and everyone was happy.
A year later, it was my turn. He came home early while I went on interviews, spent evenings on the phone with friends trying to figure out my next steps and filled out long, difficult edit tests in order to get my new job.
I found my path working part-time and finishing my novel. I couldn’t have done any of it — financially or emotionally — without his support. So is this study right? Dang straight, it is. There is no question that the single most important decision any of us make in our lives is who we do (or do not) marry. It changes everything.
For a good life, marry a good person. Sadly, the reverse is true as well. Choose carefully.
Do you think your spouse affects your career?