Research Shows Us Why It's Important To Talk About Work With Our Romantic Partners

Are you struggling to strike a balance between your work and family domains? Here's how to navigate the path.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | January 28, 2023

A recent study published in Current Psychology explains how sharing experiences about work can bring about balance in dual-earner couples and shape relationship and life satisfaction.

"It is essential for spouses to discuss their work with each other, as the work domain is often a significant part of our lives and can significantly impact our well-being," says Delia Virga of the West University of Timisoara in Romania and the lead author of the paper. "Sharing details about your work with your partner can help them better understand and support each other and provide an opportunity to connect and bond over shared interests and experiences," she adds.

Drawing on data from 149 Romanian couples, the researchers explored the role of communication regarding work among dual-earner couples. They found that couples who communicate openly and honestly about their work were more likely to have higher levels of relationship satisfaction and balance.

Conversations around work represent an essential part of how individuals enact their home environments, negotiate with their partners, build awareness, and ultimately create meaning out of their experiences.

"Communication about work is essential to the social construction of reality and in creating a supportive and fulfilling home environment," says Virga. "By sharing information and ideas about their work, spouses can better understand and support each other, making sense of connection and teamwork. Additionally, communication quality is one of the best predictors of life satisfaction."

As a working woman herself, Virga has the following pieces of advice for partners in relationships to bridge the support gap:

  • Develop a habit of regularly checking in with your partner. Discuss each person's obligations, demands, and needs in an open and honest manner. It's crucial to check in to see how things are going and to be flexible enough to adjust role responsibilities as necessary.
  • Be willing to share duties and responsibilities. Be prepared to help out with tasks and responsibilities that may not fall under your normal responsibilities. This can involve taking care of children, doing laundry, or running errands. Each partner must take the initiative to support the other. You might even strive to foresee your spouse's needs and give aid before they ask for it.
  • Appreciate your spouse for their support. Show your appreciation and support for your spouse's dedication while actively listening to their concerns about their work. This might be as easy as displaying happiness and admiration for their accomplishments or encouraging them when they're feeling overwhelmed.
  • Spend quality time together. Avoid busy schedules, prioritize your relationship, and make time for each other. Make an effort to schedule quality time with your partner to improve communication quality.

And, while it's important to give work the respect it deserves, it's also important to be able to slip out of work mode. If you find yourself talking too much about work with your partner, consider trying out new activities (i.e., attending a cooking class together, taking a tennis or pickleball lesson, or visiting an art museum) that give you something fresh to talk about. Don't avoid work conversations with your partner, but don't overdo it either.

A full interview with Professor Delia Virga discussing her research can be found here: How much time should you spend talking about work with your partner?