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There may be something more to coming home after a long day and having your feet rubbed—other than it feeling good. According to a new study, employees under stress who have strong spousal support are better able to handle work and people on the job. When 400 blue- and white-collar couples were compared, stressed out employees with support at home had the following benefits over those who don’t:

  • 50 percent higher rates of satisfaction with their marriage;
  • 33 percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers;
  • 30 percent lower likelihood of experiencing guilt associated with home/family neglect;
  • 30 percent lower likelihood of being critical of others (spouse, children) at home;
  • 25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work;
  • 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing fatigue at home after work;
  • 25 percent higher rates of satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their children;
  • 20 percent higher views that their careers were heading in the right direction; and
  • 20 percent higher level of job satisfaction,

“Given that a lack of support from one’s spouse represents a major cause of both divorce and career derailment, this research is needed to address issues that affect both home and work,” said study author Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration in the Florida State University College of Business. “When you’re still angry or upset from yesterday’s stress, your workday will likely go in only one direction — down.”

That effect isn’t exactly shocking, but what’s key in these relationships is knowing exactly what support your partner needs. As Hochwarter pointed out, “Some attempts to support your stressed-out spouse can backfire, actually making the situation much worse.” But there were certain supportive characteristics that had a deep impact for most couples such as:

  • Awareness of one’s spouse’s daily work demands (i.e., time pressures, lack of resources, deadlines, and supervisors).
  • Not “forcing support.”
  • Understanding that communication lines are open regardless of the circumstances.
  • Recognizing that distancing oneself from the family or lashing out is not a practical way to foster help. In fact, it tends to bring out the worst in others — and even causes the supporting spouse to become distant and act out as well.
  • Being able to bring one’s spouse back to the middle — up when down in the dumps and down when overly agitated.
  • Not bombarding the family with complaints about minor workplace irritants.
  • Not trying to “one-up” one’s spouse in terms of who has had the worse day.
  • Not being complacent — continuing to work at it.
  • Remaining rational and not automatically casting the spouse as the “bad guy.”
  • Not keeping a running tab on who is giving and who is getting.

At the end of the day, Hochwarter said the most telling sign of a supportive partner was “the ability for a spouse to offer support on days when he or she needs it just as much.”

“In many cases, both return home from work stressed. Generating the mental and emotional resources needed to help when your own tank is empty is often difficult. Successful couples almost always kept a steady supply of support resources on reserve to be tapped on particularly demanding days.”

Do you and your partner equally support each other after a long day of work? Do you notice a difference in your attitude toward your job the next day?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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