Confidence can impact your marital success

confident woman morguefileA growing body of evidence shows how devastating a lack of confidence can be. “Success, it turns out, correlates just as closely with confidence as it does with competence,” say Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of The Confidence Gap, written for The Atlantic’s April edition.

Confidence also has a great deal to do with the success of our marriages. That’s one reason why I don’t like to read the (often false or misleading) divorce statistics. It leads young marrieds to thinking they are so unlikely to succeed that they shouldn’t even believe in themselves and their union.

But you know what it means to have someone believe in you, don’t you? Maybe it was a coach or teacher or parent. You know what it’s like to cheer someone else on even in the face of despair or difficulty. You know the difference that it makes to root someone on and to believe they will succeed.

Kay and Shipman have researched and written about the gap in confidence that has been found between men and women in the work world, to the detriment of women’s advancement. They share their own struggles and doubts with professional confidence (despite their impressive experience and credentials). They conclude that confidence can indeed be gained, and that the “confidence gap” can be closed. And they write about how that lack of confidence fails women in the work world, leading them to not go after promotions, new jobs, raises, and other opportunities. It’s not because they lack the skills, they often don’t go for it. Why? Because they don’t believe they will succeed.

Researchers have shown that being overconfident will aid you in your success more than being very competent or skilled in your area of expertise. We don’t want to believe this! “Overconfidence can get you far in life,” concludes researcher Cameron Anderson from the University of California at Berkeley. However, faking confidence just does not work.

Perfectionism is another confidence killer. In fact, striving for perfection hinders our performance and productivity.

What are some of the causes of lack of confidence? The researchers say women tend to ruminate over what has gone and worry about future consequences, whereas men have been more indoctrinated into the male competitive world of action more than overthinking things. I wonder if these contribute to the fact that two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women.

Our brains are fairly plastic, and we can learn to be more confident. We can even boost one another’s confidence. For example, researchers told random individuals in a group that they did very well on a previous test. The individuals who received that feedback scored much higher on the next test, showing that confidence can be self-perpetuating.

The choice not to try was one of the biggest reasons that researchers found people didn’t succeed at various tasks. How about your marriage? Do you have confidence in your marriage and in your abilities to succeed? Do you encourage and lift your spouse up and believe in him or her? If you have children or know children, you can clearly see how confidence can affect their performance in school or sports.

Now for a taste of realism: Being confident doesn’t mean that you believe all your problems will disappear, any more than women ignoring the glass ceiling will make it disappear. But most marriage problems can be overcome, and you can do challenging things. Be confident. Be hopeful. Take positive actions to keep your marriage growing together.

Check out this useful resource on developing confidence.

Do you agree or disagree with this premise that confidence affects marriage? Why or why not? I admit I would rather success be based on skills and effort than on something so nebulous as confidence. Are you a confident person or do you struggle with it?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at and in various e-book formats here.

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8 responses to “Confidence can impact your marital success

  1. Confidence definitely helps. I am a graduate student at a local university. I see students who are equally smart and equally knowledgeable on the day of midterms and finals. The biggest different between them is the confidence level. Some are giving themselves the message “I know how to do this.” Others are giving themselves messages like “I’m not good at tests” or “I can’t write as well as the others”. Almost always, there is a correlation between the student’s attitude going into the test and the grade they get. (I’m not talking about the arrogant ones who think they are smarter than everyone else, or the ones who really don’t know anything because they didn’t study – that’s a different story entirely.) It is possible to develop confidence, and it does make a difference.

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  3. My husband struggles with perfectionism.

    I have heard that perfectionism is a huge deterrent to success. The person gets stuck in trying to get it right and can’t move on.

    That was his experience in our early years of marriage but he has moved a long way from it now that he recognizes it. In the past he would deny that he was being perfectionistic, or would say that he was only trying to do his best, but now he sees how it hangs him up.

    Now he welcomes having me say to him that I think his perfectionism is rearing its head again. It’s a great place to be, helping each other grow!

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