Should I Help My Spouse or Wait For Him/Her to Help Me?

Which is better, to do something kind for your spouse or to wait for him to do something nice for you? A new study shows that from a health perspective it’s better to give, especially to your spouse.

Harry Reis, Dean of Psychology at the University of Rochester in upstate New York led a team of researchers investigating 175 American couples. “Our research is to check if “Compassionate concern for others enhances one’s own affective state”, says Reis . In plain English, does giving benefit the giver and improve his/ her situation?

The psychologists researching this asked each spouse to write down for themselves daily, all the times where a spouse gave in, made and effort or went out of his wait to make the other spouse glad. In addition, they filled out a questionnaire that helped to measure their mood and feeling of emotional wellbeing.

The results show that both spouses registered an average of 0.65 good deeds they did for their spouse and an average of 0.59 deeds one spouse received from the other. These deeds included the changing of plans to accommodate the spouse, an action that showed the spouse they are valued, or a show of affection to the spouse.

Before the research took place, the researchers estimated that the greatest benefit for the giver from his/her actions would be when the other spouse noticed and recognized the goodness being done to him/her, for that would make the giver feel valued. Even though that is a logically sound assumption, the researchers found something additional.

Professor Reis found that: “Clearly, a recipient needs to notice a compassionate act in order to emotionally benefit from it, but recognition is much less a factor for the donor. Acting compassionately may be its own reward.”

They found that a spouse that did for the other felt better whether or not the other spouse knew about what they did for them. The satisfaction derived from doing for the other was 45% greater than the satisfaction felt by the spouse receiving the kindness.  For illustration sake, if a husband saw his wife’s car covered with snow and cleared her windshield before he left to work, he felt better during the day whether or not his wife acknowledged his cleaning the windshield.

Reis concludes; “There’s no doubt that to act out of compassion benefits the doer regardless.”
In light of the results they found, Professor Reis and his team are working on a study to measure the emotional benefit someone gets when spending money on someone else. The assumption is that the spending of money on others improves the feeling of wellbeing of the giver if he’s giving with pure intentions and not to ‘impress the receiver’.


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