It seems reasonable that thinking about supportive partners should be motivationally bolstering - leading us to work harder. Fitzsimonds and Finkel make observations that suggest just the opposite - that such thoughts are motivationally undermining, causing us to make less ambitious plans to pursue goals and to spend less time on the pursuit.
The their first experiment,
...participants who thought about how their partner helped them with health goals (as opposed to career goals) planned to spend less time and effort on health goals in the upcoming week. This pattern was stronger for depleted participants than for nondepleted participants.In a second experiment,
...participants who thought about how their partner helped them with academic-achievement goals procrastinated more, leaving themselves less time for an academic task, than did participants in two control conditions. This pattern was stronger for participants who were told that procrastinating would drain their resources for the academic task than for participants who were told that procrastinating would not drain their resources for that task.A final experiment
...found that participants who decreased their effort after thinking of an instrumental significant other reported higher relationship commitment to that individual than did participants who did not decrease their effort.The authors suggest that:
...partners may develop shared self-regulatory systems, or “transactive self-control,” relying on each other for help with self-control. Individuals who rely on their romantic partner for help with self-control in one area may be able to conserve valuable resources for other goal pursuits. If so, such a shared self-regulatory system—although it could ironically undermine short-term outcomes, as in the case of the outsourcing phenomenon shown here—could ultimately benefit partners if it allowed them to best make use of their limited self-control resources over time.