How Much Does Your Spouse Affect Your Mood?

Young happy couple in love holding red paper heart.


Growing up, I’ve heard several married men declare that a happy wife means a  happy life. Although the happy life those men were referring to meant less nagging and attitudes, there is some real evidence to back up their claim. Emotional contagion is the idea that individuals take on or mimic the emotions of those around them. Romantic relationships can greatly be affected by emotional contagion due to the many social interactions and close proximity. Recall the last time your partner had great news to tell you. As they are standing in front of you excited and smiling from ear to ear, you cant help but also smile. This is a basic example of emotional contagion.

Researchers have also dug deeper in how emotions can be influenced by romantic partners. One aspect being studied, the partner-expected affect, believes how a person currently feels can be predicted by how their partner thought they previously felt. A study completed by Sels L1Ceulemans E1Kuppens P examined this among 50 couples. All the participants were heterosexual and over the age of 18. However the age, length of relationship, and living status varied in order to properly represent the population. Methods and procedures were thoroughly explained to all individuals. Using a grid, they were instructed to mark the position that best corresponded to their current emotion state. A separate grid, they were told to mark how the believed their partner also felt at that exact moment. The study lasted for 7 consecutive days and couples competed the assessment a total of ten times. A signal was sent to each partner notifying them it was time to complete an assessment. It was also documented rather or not the partners had been in contact with each between receiving the signal and starting the assessment.

The results of this study support the idea of partner- expected affect. Both men and women participants self-reported pleasurable feelings more often when their partners also did. Furthermore,  how pleasant people felt was positively predicted by how pleasant their partner thought they were feeling before.  Emotions are contangious. All forms of relationships must keep this in mind to maintain positive connections.


Partner-expected affect: How you feel now is predicted by how your partner thought you felt before
Sels, Laura; Ceulemans, Eva; Kuppens, Peter. Emotion Vol. 17, Iss. 7, (Oct 2017): 1066-1077.

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1 comment

  1. I really like the idea of this blog entry! You’re completely right. A spouse is someone who a person spends a good portion of their everyday life and lifetime with. So, they definitely would have to have some affect on mood. I know from personal experience that when my fiance is happy, I am in a great mood. But when he’s feeling down or angry about something, I tend to feel awful. Surprisingly, I never really picked up on it much until I read this. I think since a person is so emotionally connected to their spouse, their mood naturally aligns with their partners- whether negative or positive. A simple google search of “spouse and mood” gives a ton of results on how to cope with a partners bad mood.

    I thought this article was interesting (although it is from Oprah’s website, so I’m not sure how accurate it may be).
    It discusses “marital mood leak” and how mood affects both partners.
    This definitely seems to be a common and relevant topic to many!

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