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Doing Nice Things for Your Spouse Benefits You, Even When They Don’t Notice, Science Says

Here’s yet another reason to treat your spouse to that back rub, or let them have their way, or let them sleep in instead of you, or…

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We’ve all heard the saying “It’s better to give than to receive.”

Well now, a new study out of University of Rochester and published in the journal Emotion confirms that in a marriage, givers themselves benefit greatly from their kind acts toward their spouses. I knew it was in his best interest for my hubby to give me that foot rub last night!

According to the study, compassionate acts are rewarding for a giver’s well-being even if that person’s significant other doesn’t notice. Hmm...that must be why I feel so good about myself after I fold my hubby’s laundry. Because he seems to assume those clothes magically appear in his drawers!

Researchers looked at 175 North American newlyweds married for about seven months. As lead researcher and psychology professor Harry Reis explains, the study was based on a belief of Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, “that compassionate concern for others' welfare enhances one's own affective state.”

For two weeks, the couples were asked to keep a daily diary to record the times when either partner put aside a personal desire to satisfy the other’s needs. The participants also self-assessed their emotional well-being each day.

Interestingly, the spouses recorded between just .65 and .59 compassionate acts each day over the 14-day period. And husbands perceived more acts than wives did.

But recognition of an act of kindness like compromising with or showing affection toward a spouse wasn’t the key factor in how it made a giver feel. "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," Reis said.

In other words, whether or not the act is recognized, it’s the act itself that spread feel-good vibes all around. So the next time you feel like doing something nice for your spouse, it seems, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain. I’ll keep that in mind as I continue to make my way through the giant pile of my husband’s laundry.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of coffee.