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Stress, not commute, likely the driving problem

POSTED: January 29, 2014 4:46 p.m.
 

Have you heard about the new study claiming if you have a long morning commute to work that statistically your marriage may be in trouble?

Apparently, some Swedish researchers studied married couples from 1995 to 2005 and found that if the work commute was 45 minutes or longer, the marriage was 40 percent more likely to fail.

Wow, that’s a big number. The study also found that men were more likely than women to “bail out” on a marriage.

These studies, while interesting, never tell the whole story. There are always mitigating factors when you talk about why a couple divorces, even within the context of a long commute.

How many of those couples hated their jobs? How many had young children? How many experienced both of those stress-causing factors?

Let’s take my questions one at a time.

* Job haters. This is such a tough one, because in many cases people stay with a job because they can’t find something else, especially in today’s economy.

But there are those who stay with a job simply because they don’t want to look for anything else and, frankly, like to complain to anybody who’ll listen.

I have several friends who fall into this category. One is a great example. To protect his identity, let’s call him Bob.

Bob complains about his boss, his tasks, the company, co-workers and the commute. He has anxiety and loses sleep over it.

His situation isn’t all that uncommon. He is smart and capable. I know he could find another job if he really wanted.

I don’t know if he complains to his spouse when he gets home, but suspect he does. That would cause an immediate negative atmosphere, which can spill over into parenting and a relationship.

• Young children. Regardless of how many kids a couple has, they are almost always crabby by the end of the day. Throw in the cold and flu season and you may have a bunch of little monsters running around.

I well remember having four young children and being completely exhausted by the time the dinner rolled around.

Trying to get food on the table, wipe runny noses, break up arguments and discipline the one who started said arguments is a lot. Then factor in keeping the laundry going, changing a diaper, taking care of someone who is sick and greeting your husband when he walks in. It’s a possible disaster.

Gone is any empathy for your spouse, who may have been sitting in nightmare traffic. I actually remember envying Paul for being able to have all of that quiet, alone time in the car.

I couldn’t imagine a few hours a day of complete silence, or listening to the news or (gasp) music. That sounded heavenly.

So it’s not hard to imagine that I often was less than pleasant when he walked through that door into the chaos that was our lives for so many years.

Then I read a book about nurturing a relationship in which the author addressed this very topic. She suggested, even if your spouse didn’t have a long commute, letting him unwind for a few minutes when arriving home.

The author promised he would be in a much better mood and more willing to help with the evening chores. I tried this and found it was absolutely true.

Simply greeting Paul and not expecting help for 15 minutes or so worked wonders at improving his mood, which in turn helped mine.

I think this works for both spouses. If both work outside the home, try giving each other that 15 minutes of unwinding time, perhaps switching  off who gets to go first.

Add to that strategy a thought-ahead-dinner-plan (whether it’s in the slow cooker or a simple made-ahead casserole to heat up), and you’re sure to alleviate a lot of stress, especially for mom. 

As for the commuting study, there was some good news. The researchers found that if you had that terrible commute, but stayed married for five years or longer, you were likely going to weather the commuting storm and the marriage would survive.

I think stress is the real marriage killer. I don’t believe it’s the commute. We all have stress, so the best defense is a good offense.

Talk about strategies for relieving stress in all aspects of life. If there’s a long commute, talk with your spouse about ways to make it more bearable.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.

 

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