Your Partner May Actually Hold The Key To Your Career Success, Science Says

by Alexia LaFata

Your perfect forever person should have many qualities. They should be a good communicator. They should be someone you feel comfortable around. They should make you feel secure and happy. The sex should be fire. But being a supportive boyfriend or girlfriend is perhaps the most important quality a significant other should have — especially if you want to see success in your career.

Dating someone who supports your hopes and dreams and ambitions sounds like a no-brainer. But a new study from Carnegie Mellon University suggests there's a real incentive to actively seek out someone who supports you: Having a supportive partner is pretty strongly correlated with your willingness to take on potentially rewarding challenges, including those at your job, that will give you a chance to succeed. And if you accept those challenges, you are more likely to experience more happiness and personal growth. Plus, your relationship will be stronger months later.

"Significant others can help you thrive through embracing life opportunities," said Brooke Feeney, lead author of the study and professor of psychology in CMU's Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "Or they can hinder your ability to thrive by making it less likely that you'll pursue opportunities for growth."


To uncover this finding, researchers asked each member of 163 married couples to either solve an easy puzzle or take on an opportunity to compete for a prize by delivering a speech. Then, researchers analyzed the conversations each couple had as they figured out which they were going to take on. People whose partners were more encouraging partners were more likely to decide to compete for the prize, whereas people whose partners were less encouraging chose the puzzle. After catching up with the couples six months later, researchers found that people who competed for the prize had — yup, you guessed it — more happiness and personal growth. And their relationships were better than the couples who went for the puzzle.

I have to say, these findings ring very true to me. I have dated guys who have been less than supportive of my dreams, and it really took a toll on my self-worth. It discouraged me from taking any risks in my career because I didn't want to continue pursuing something they weren't in full support of — I feared their disdain or belittling comments. But when I date someone I know supports me, I constantly feel more validated and happy, just by virtue of having them in my life.

If you're wondering how to seek out supportive partners, look for people who are enthusiastic about any challenges that come your way and who discuss the benefits of you embracing those challenges. It's also important to look for people who reassure you when things get hard. Overall, though, you'll know in your gut if someone you're dating is supportive of you, so check in with yourself. And if you're dating someone who doesn't support you, get rid of them! Your inner boss b*tch depends on it.

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