It Literally Pays to Have a Reliable Spouse

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Photo: Melinda Sue Gordon/Netflix

Conscientiousness is not really up there among the sexiest qualities a person can have, but maybe it should be. New research in Psychological Science found that people who have careful, reliable partners tend to do better at work; they make more money, get more promotions, and are happier at their jobs. 

Marry a put-together person, in other words, and their put-together-ness will spill over into your own life, even into your workplace. Suddenly, put-together-ness seems very sexy. The researchers gathered their data via an annual survey in Australia that collects economic and social information. It assesses, among other things, personality traits and job status, and the researchers used it to examine answers from 4,544 married individuals from 2005 to 2009. And for both men and women, having a conscientious partner literally paid off. “Specifically, being married to a spouse who is especially conscientious is associated with higher levels of future job satisfaction, higher levels of future income, and a greater likelihood of being promoted, even when accounting for one’s own level of conscientiousness,” lead author Brittany C. Solomon said in an email. Even if you yourself aren’t the meticulous type, marry one and you’ll reap the rewards.

We tend to take on the characteristics of those we spend a lot of time with, and particularly our significant others. Romantic partners influence each other’s exercise and eating habits, for example, so it could be that the less-conscientious of the pair starts picking up on the other’s good habits. Also, if you have a fastidious partner, he or she is likely the one who will manage the household chores and finances, which means you can focus more of your time and energy on work. In decades past, similar research has shown married men tend to make more money than single men, possibly because their wives were keeping things together at home. This new study is an updated take on that.

As the authors phrase it, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle; however, in reality, having such a partner is likely to yield personal and professional prosperity.” It’s hard to argue with that.