TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s the Only Secret to Being Truly Successful

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Your significant other has a huge impact on your success. Science says so

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

Your customers are hugely important. And your key employees. As well as the industry you’ve chosen, politics, macroeconomics, and education.

And luck.

While all those are important factors in the success of your business (or career) and your earning power, here’s one factor you probably haven’t considered:

Your spouse.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis found that people with relatively prudent and reliable partners tend to perform better at work, earning more promotions, making more money, and feeling more satisfied with their jobs.

That’s true for men and women: “Partner conscientiousness” predicted future job satisfaction, income, and likelihood of promotion (even after factoring in the participants’ level of conscientiousness.)

According to the researchers, “conscientious” partners perform more household tasks, exhibit more pragmatic behaviors that their spouses are likely to emulate, and promote a more satisfying home life, all of which enables their spouse to focus more on work.

As one researcher said, “These results demonstrate that the dispositional characteristics of the person one marries influence important aspects of one’s professional life.” (In nonresearch terms, a good partner both sets a good example and makes it possible for you to be a better you.)

I know that’s true for me. My wife is the most organized person I know. She juggles family, multiple jobs, multiple interests—she’s a goal-achieving machine. Her “conscientiousness” used to get on my nerves, until I realized the only reason it bugged me was because her level of focus implicitly challenged my inherent laziness.

I finally realized the best way to get more done was to actually get more done, and she definitely helps me do that.

And I try to do the same for her. Since my daily commute is two flights of stairs, I take care of most of the house stuff: laundry, groceries, cleaning (I don’t do all the cleaning, but I make sure it gets done), etc., so when she comes home she can just behome.

So, while she’s still much more conscientious and organized than I am, she’s definitely rubbed off on me in a very positive way.

Which of course makes sense: As Jim Rohn says, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with—and that’s particularly true where our significant others are concerned.

Bad habits rub off. Poor tendencies rub off. We all know that. But good habits and good tendencies rub off too.

Plus, if one person is extremely organized and keeps your household train running on time, that frees the other up to focus more on work. (Of course, in a perfect world, both people would more or less equally share train-engineer duties so that both can better focus on their careers, whether those careers are in the home or outside.)

Keep in mind, I’m not recommending you choose your significant other solely on the basis of criteria like conscientiousness and prudence. As the researchers say, “Marrying a conscientious partner could at first sound like a recipe for a rigid and lackluster lifestyle.”

Nor am I suggesting you end a relationship if you feel your partner is lacking in those areas.

But it does appear that having a conscientious and prudent partner is part of the recipe for a better and more rewarding career.

So instead of expecting your partner to change, think about what you can do to be more supportive of your significant other. Maybe you can take on managing your finances, or take care of more household chores, or repairs, maintenance, or schedules.

After all, the best way to lead is by example, and in time you may find that you and your significant other make an outstanding—and mutually supportive—team.

How awesome does that sound?

MONEY Benefits

Why Some Same-Sex Couples May Have to Marry Now

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With same-sex marriage legal in 35 states and D.C., a few employers are starting to roll back back health insurance and other benefits for domestic partners.

Until recently, same-sex couples could not legally marry. Now, some are finding they must wed if they want to keep their partner’s job-based health insurance and other benefits.

With same-sex marriage now legal in 35 states and the District of Columbia, some employers that formerly covered domestic partners say they will require marriage licenses for workers who want those perks.

“We’re bringing our benefits in line, making them consistent with what we do for everyone else,” said Ray McConville, a spokesman for Verizon, which notified non-union employees in July that domestic partners in states where same-sex marriage is legal must wed if they want to qualify for such benefits.

Employers making the changes say that since couples now have the legal right to marry, they no longer need to provide an alternative. Such rule changes could also apply to opposite-sex partners covered under domestic partner arrangements.

“The biggest question is: Will companies get rid of benefit programs for unmarried partners?” said Todd Solomon, a partner at McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

It is legal for employers to set eligibility requirements for the benefits they offer workers and their families — although some states, such as California, bar employers from excluding same-sex partners from benefits. But some benefit consultants and advocacy groups say there are legal, financial and other reasons why couples may not want to marry.

Requiring marriage licenses is “a little bossy” and feels like “it’s not a voluntary choice at that point,” said Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, an organization advocating for gay, lesbian and transgender people.

About two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partner benefits, but only a minority is changing the rules to require tying the knot, said Deena Fidas, director of the workplace equality program at the advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

Because same-sex marriage isn’t legal in all states, “many employers operating in multiple states … are retaining their partner benefit structures,” said Fidas.

Most companies making the changes, including Verizon, are doing so only in those states where same-sex couples can get married. And most give workers some time to do it.

“We gave them a year and a quarter to get married,” said Jim Redmond, spokesman for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, which made the change for employees shortly after New York allowed same-sex unions.

Employers that offer domestic partner benefits — for both same-sex and opposite-sex partners — generally allow couples in committed relationships to qualify for health and other benefits upon providing documents, such as financial statements, wills, rental agreements or mortgages, proving they are responsible for each other financially.

Such benefits were particularly important before the federal health law barred insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing medical conditions.

“We had clients over the years who were living with HIV … the only health insurance they had, or had hope of getting was their partner’s, through a job,” said Daniel Bruner, director of legal services at the Whitman-Walker Health clinic in Washington D.C. “Now folks have more health insurance options.”

After the Supreme Court ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in 2013, the portion of the health insurance premium paid by employers on behalf of the same-sex spouse was no longer taxable under federal rules, although state taxes often applied where such marriages were not legal. When state marriage laws change, so do those tax rules.

In Arizona, Dena Sidmore and her wife, Cherilyn Walley are saving more than $300 a month in taxes on the health insurance from Walley’s state job, which covers them both. The savings came after the state’s same-sex marriage bar was thrown out by the courts in October.

They didn’t marry for benefits. They already had coverage under domestic partner requirements affecting Arizona state workers. They simply wanted to be married. Indeed, they tied the knot in September 2013, after driving all night to Santa Fe, N.M., where same-sex marriage was legal.

“It was lovely,” Sidmore said of the ceremony at the courthouse. But for her, the real change came when Arizona’s bar on same-sex marriage was overturned by the courts. She remembers thinking: “This is real. It’s not just a piece of paper.”

After the courts lifted the same-sex marriage ban, Arizona dropped its domestic partner program. State workers had until the end of last year to marry if they wanted to keep a partner on benefits.

Sidmore has no objection to employers requiring a marriage license for benefits because “spousal benefits require marriage,” although she thinks there should be exceptions for older residents who might face the loss of pensions or other financial complications if they remarry.

Benefit experts recommend that employers consider what it might mean for workers if benefits are linked to marital status — especially those that operate in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

While some couples, like Sidmore and Walley, may be willing to travel to tie the knot, others may not want to, or may be unable to afford it. Additionally, some workers may fear if they marry, then move or get transferred to a state where same-sex marriage is barred, they would face discrimination.

Joe Incorvati, a managing director at KPMG in New Jersey, married his partner, Chuck, in 2013 when it became an option. “We’d been together for 38 years, so it just seemed natural,” he said.

KPMG offers domestic partner benefits and does not require employees to be married for eligibility. While he’s comfortable in New Jersey, Incorvati said it could be a problem if his company wanted to transfer him to a state where same sex marriage is not legal.

Even though his work benefits would remain the same, “Would I have the same rights as in New Jersey?” Incorvati asked. “The answer may be no.”

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a nonprofit national health policy news service.

TIME Sex/Relationships

10 Rules to Make Your Relationship Last

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'It’s always more work than you can possibly imagine. In my case, it was worth it.'

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, what is it that makes a marriage last (and last)? To answer this age-old question, family sociologist Karl Pillemer, PhD, launched the largest in-depth survey of long-married couples ever conducted, interviewing 700 people who had been hitched an average of 43 years. Their sage advice is collected in his new book, 30 Lessons for Loving ($26, amazon.com).

Here, a few of our favorite practical relationship tips from husbands and wives who’ve discovered the true meaning of commitment.

Start the day with a small kindness

“When you wake up in the morning, think, What can I do to make his or her day just a little happier? The idea is you need to turn toward each other and focus on the other person, even just for that five minutes when you first wake up.”
—Antoinette Watkins*, 81

Remember that being close doesn’t mean you’re the same

“You have to be able to try—and sometimes this is very, very difficult—you have to try to understand what the other person is thinking in any given situation. The main thing is that everybody—including your partner—has their own ideas about their world. Even though you’re in a very intimate relationship, the other person is still another person.”
—Reuben Elliot, 72

HEALTH.COM: 10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

Stop worrying about your wrinkles

“Somehow as you get older you kind of get blind to the infirmities that affect the other party. And you always see them the way they were. You don’t see aging. It’s a wonderful thing. I don’t know if the brain is wired for that, but that’s the way it is.”
—Alfredo Doyle, 77

Find your “fight number 17”

“This may sound like a flip thing, but it works for us. We came up with it at some point along the way: We call it jokingly ‘fight number 17.’ … It means we’ve had this one at least 16 times before. We’ve decided we don’t even bother to have it anymore. We see it coming and we just shut up and don’t even start with it. Because it’s not going to go anywhere. My theory is that in every marriage there is one of those issues.”
—Ralph Perkins

Nurture the friendship

“I think it’s hard when you’re young and hot on one another to back off and say, ‘Do I like what is behind these hands and these body parts?’ But that is the piece that doesn’t wear out, that grows and deepens. The sexual aspect deepens, too, in its own way, but it becomes less important and the friendship becomes more important as the years go by. It will be challenged by kids and hardships and losses of parents and changing interests and patterns, but an abiding friendship is at the base of a solid marriage.”
—Lydia Wade, 73

HEALTH.COM: 13 Reasons to Have More Sex

Surround yourself with happy couples

“If you’re hanging around with negative people, find some positive people and hang around with them instead. You know, success imitates success. So if you see people who seem to have a very successful happy marriage, well, you hang around with those types of people. It does rub off. Avoid the ones with a defeatist attitude—get out of there before they drag you down.”
—Jeremy Bennett, 80

Repeat back to each other

“We realized early on that disagreements often came about when we weren’t really understanding where the other person was coming from. So I will say, ‘Are you saying….?’ Or ‘Do you mean…?’ Because sometimes we really are in the moment and we say things that we really don’t believe. So I always repeat back to him what I think he’s saying and then he’ll either say yes or he’ll say, ‘No, where’d you get that idea?’”
—Lucia Waters, 75

HEALTH.COM: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Divvy up chores based on your strengths

“You just need to share at home…It needs to be cooperative. And here’s the way to do it: Whatever needs to be done, the person who can do it best is the one who should do it.”
—Dixie Becker, 84

Take breaks

“If conflict occurs, well, there is the Chinese saying, ‘Take a step back, and you can see the whole sky.’ Just step away, a little bit. Just step back and then you see other things.”
—Chen Xiu

Know that there’s always more to learn

“It seems to me that marriage is a process. You never get there; you’re always in process. It’s always more work than you can possibly imagine. In my case, it was worth it.”
—Samantha Jones, 80

HEALTH.COM: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

*All of the participants’ names have been changed.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

MONEY Love and Money

Be a Contestant on a MONEY Game Show!

Money Match Game screengrab

Money.com is seeking contestants for Money Match, the game in which married couples find out how compatible they are about their finances.

Ever wanted to be on a game show with your spouse? Here’s your chance.

Money.com is seeking married couples who would like to be contestants on Money Match. That’s our online game show, hosted by Farnoosh Torabi, in which spouses find out just how much they know about each other when it comes to finances. You can watch past episodes here and here.

Our next Money Match taping will be on Friday afternoon, January 30, in midtown Manhattan.

Do you live in the New York City area, or will you be visiting the city at that time? If you’ve been married for less than three years and you’d like to play the game, please fill out the confidential form below. We’ll get in touch with possible contestants.

Thanks!

MONEY Love and Money

The 3 Most Important Things to Do Before Announcing You Want a Divorce

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Ready to call it quits on your marriage? A little early planning can go far in helping you protect your finances

With “new year, new you” resolutions in full swing and the holidays finally over, January is one of the hottest months for divorce filings.

“Last year I saw a 10 to 15% increase in consultations in January, peaking at a more than 40% increase in March,” says Lisa Decker, a certified divorce financial analyst in Kennesaw, Ga. “I refer to January as the beginning of ‘Divorce Season.'”

If you’re among those who’ve decided that 2015 is the year you’ll go from married to single, make sure you’re ready for the financial toll that the divorce process can take by making these key move before announcing you want out.

Gather Key Docs

“Once a divorce has been initiated, financial information can disappear or become difficult to access,” says Carl Palatnik, a divorce financial analyst in Melville, NY.

With that in mind, begin gathering copies of any documents that verify assets, liabilities, income and expenses, including recent bank, brokerage and retirement statements, tax returns, and real estate deeds—and the prenup, if you have one. This step can take three to six months, depending on how accessible the documents are, adds Decker.

Having a paper trail saves stress, time and money. “You won’t be captive to your spouse, hoping he or she will provide things to you,” says Decker. Nor will you have to pay your lawyer to go after this information.

Stash Some Cash

Ideally you want to have a year’s worth of basic living expenses in a personal account prior to filing.

If all your money’s co-mingled and you have no way of opening your own account and making deposits without raising red flags, open a credit card with a low or introductory 0% interest rate, says Decker.

This step is important because divorce proceedings could take six months or more, during which time you may lose access to spousal support. Plus, you’ll need to lay out another $10,000 to $20,000 for an initial retainer if you plan to work with an attorney and/or financial advisor, says Decker. (If you earn significantly less than your partner or have no income a retainer could get a lawyer to petition to have your spouse pay ongoing legal fees.)

Sever Credit Ties

Finally, to prevent what my friend experienced, try to separate shared credit card accounts, says Palatnik.

If your spouse is an authorized user on one of your cards, ask the issuer to remove your spouse’s name. If you’re joint users, freezing the cards may be your best bet.

But wait to do this until right before making the big announcement. Otherwise, jig’s up as soon as your spouse swipes.

Farnoosh Torabi is a contributing editor at Money magazine and author of the book, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women.

More by Farnoosh Torabi:

TIME

Why Your Friend’s Weepy Wedding Toast Was Scientifically Accurate

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Marriage increases lifetime happiness, says new study Manuel Orero Galan--Getty Images/Moment RF

Marrying your best friend could help you live happily ever after

Finally Julia Roberts can get the scientific recognition she deserves. Turns out, she was totally right in My Best Friend’s Wedding: being married to your best friend actually does make you happy (sorry, Julia; congratulations, Cameron Diaz).

According to a study recently published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, married couples who said their spouse was their best friend reported significantly higher rates of life satisfaction than less friendly couples. About half of married or co-habitating couples said their partner was their best friend, and they get almost twice as much “additional life satisfaction” from the relationship than other couples. This finding was consistent even when the researchers controlled for age, gender, income, and health, and was still higher for married buddies than cohabitating couples who said they were best friends.

The benefit of having your spouse be your best friend was much higher for women than for men, but women were also less likely to say that their spouse was their BFF (perhaps because women tend to have lots of close female friendships, while men tend to have fewer).

Marriage rates have declined by almost 60% since 1970, and in 2013 the U.S. marriage rate was the lowest in 100 years (only 31.1 marriages per 1,000 married women). But according to researchers Shawn Grover and John F. Helliwell, who compiled the study on marriage and happiness for the NBER, marriage is strongly correlated with increased happiness, even in less fun periods of life like middle age (this is not to say that middle-aged married people are super happy, they’re just happier than unmarried middle-aged people). They found that even when controlling for the possibility that naturally happy people may be more likely to get married in the first place, marriage comes with a significant increase in life satisfaction. And that increase in life satisfaction endures past the newlywed phase and often result in increased happiness in the long term.

And while marriage is increasingly becoming a “luxury good,” more common among the rich and college-educated, Grover and Helliwell controlled for income in their research, which means that the well-being that comes from marriage isn’t the same as the well-being that comes from wealth.

 

TIME Crime

Wife Accidentally Shoots Husband Who Was Just Surprising Her With Breakfast

She thought he was an intruder

A North Carolina man was shot in the chest Friday morning after his wife allegedly mistook him for a home intruder when he was trying to surprise her with breakfast in bed.

Fort Bragg soldier Zia Segule, 28, returned home unannounced to surprise his wife Tiffany Segule with breakfast after she thought he’d gone to work, Fayetteville police told WTVD. The alarm sounded and his Tiffany, who was in bed at the time, thought there was an intruder. She shot through the closed bedroom door and hit her husband in the chest.

Zia was able to walk and talk after taking a bullet, and has since been released from the hospital and returned home Friday afternoon. He told reporters, “I’m good.” Tiffany Segule was questioned by police, who say she may have been alarmed by recent break-ins in the area.

[WTVD]

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