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Successful Partnerships with Spouse Rely on Self-Control

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on May 22, 2014

Successful Partnerships with Spouse Rely on Self-ControlShared decision-making and participation in co-activities with a spouse are a method to facilitate relationship intimacy.

However, successfully partnering with a spouse on miscellaneous endeavors is not an easy task, with new research suggesting the success of the joint endeavors depends on individual levels of self-control.

For example, couples often go grocery shopping together, make joint financial decisions, and choose entertainment options to share. Even products and programs like shared gym memberships and joint credit cards are designed with couples in mind.

According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, how a couple succeeds or fails in these types of joint endeavors depends on their individual levels of self-control.

“We studied the role self-control plays in the joint decisions made by couples,” write authors Hristina Dzhogleva from Boston College and Cait Poynor Lamberton, Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh.

Through a series of studies involving both real-world couples and pairs of students in a laboratory setting, the authors observed that when both people in a relationship have high levels of self-control, they are better able to save more money, buy healthier foods, and stick to tasks longer than in a relationship where both partners have low levels of self-control.

Interestingly, when one person in a relationship has high self-control and the other has low self-control, the couple generally makes joint decisions similar to those where both partners have low self-control.

They attribute this behavior pattern to the idea that people with high self-control tend to value the idea of maintaining the relationship. In other words, preserving harmony is more important than sticking to their guns.

These findings have real world implications for industries like banking and investments.

Take the example of a financial planner working with a couple on retirement planning — knowledge of the couple and individual’s style and discipline is important.

If an advisor knows that a couple has mixed self-control, they can better tailor their services to cede control of the retirement decisions to the spouse with lower self-control instead of encouraging joint decision making.

“Our findings might be particularly surprising to the person who incorrectly believes that making joint decisions with someone with more self-control will allow them to exhibit better restraint,” the authors conclude.

“As it turns out, self-control can’t be outsourced to someone else.”

Source: Journal of Consumer Reports

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2014). Successful Partnerships with Spouse Rely on Self-Control. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 22, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/22/successful-partnerships-with-spouse-rely-on-self-control/70194.html