HEALTHY LIVING
05/26/2014 09:18 am ET Updated May 26, 2014

How Your Partner's Self-Control Affects Your Own

Blend Images - Dave and Les Jacobs via Getty Images

Does your partner have a lot of self-control, or does he or she always seem to be depleted of it? The answer could affect the way you make decisions.

A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that in a relationship or partnership where both people have high self-control levels, they make better decisions -- such as saving money, or buying healthier foods -- than when both people have low self-control levels.

But what about when the self-control levels are not equally matched? Researchers from Boston College and the University of Pittsburgh found that when one person in a relationship has high levels of self-control while the other person has low levels of self-control, the joint decisions veer toward those that would have been made if both people had low levels of self-control.

The reason: “…The higher self-control individuals’ motivation to act in a prorelationship manner leads them to assent to their lower self-control partner’s indulgent preferences,” the researchers explained in the study.

In other words, the person with high self-control cares more about not rocking the boat and maintaining peace and harmony in the relationship, so they’re willing to go along with the less-wise decision.

Therefore, “the safest route to success for higher self-control individuals is to partner with others of the same capacity,” the researchers wrote. “However, higher self-control individuals should be wary of partnering with low self-control individuals. The likelihood is that their tendency to engage in prorelationship behaviors may negate their innate advantages in pursuing long-term goals.”

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