A recent story over a MSNBC – For better or worse, happiness is hitched to your spouse – references a study from the latest issue of the American Psychological Association’s journal Developmental Psychology that determined that an individual’s happiness is intimately tied to their most intimate partner. In other words? When your wife or hubby is either unhappy or elated, your own mood is affected.
“What we saw over a long period of time is that if one spouse changed in terms of increasing happiness, the other spouse’s happiness would go up,” says Christiane Hoppmann, professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and lead author of the study. “And if there was a dip in happiness, this dip would also affect the respective spouse…Right now, we know that happiness is tied in marital relationships. But we don’t know yet whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. We can’t tell if one spouse lifts up the other when there’s trouble or whether one spouse drags the other down. It could be both.”
It makes sense that the mindset of a person with whom you are (supposedly) closest can affect how you feel. If you roll over in the morning, chipper and in search of a post-alarm snuggle, but your husband is already voicing his dissatisfaction with life, then it can really bring you down. Similarly, if you’ve had a tough time at work and you need a little affirmation but your partner’s pessimism puts a further negative spin on the events of the day, it’s not going to do a whole lot to bolster your mood. But, on the other hand, if your partner is in a great mood, full of affection and good humour, then it’s hard to hold onto any rain clouds hovering above.
I can remember (vividly) what has happened in my previous relationships when a boyfriend’s circumstances took a turn for the unhappy. There was the boyfriend who hated his new job, which required him to work evenings and weekends, and he had little to no time or patience left over; I spent my days agonizing over whether I should pull the plug or keep holding onto hope that things would get better. Or the boyfriend who was finishing up grad school and suddenly stricken with anxiety over his future; he became almost unbearable to be around and my own life was vulnerable to his unpredictable mood swings. Relationships with stronger foundations can weather such stormy periods, but anyone is tested by a serious downturn in one partner’s mood. It can make you feel worried, insecure, sad and helpless – all of which can significantly affect your happiness.