Is Your Commute Ruining Your Marriage?
A long commute comes with an obvious list of downfalls -- super-early wake-up calls, unexpected traffic jams, the fact that it costs a half-a-day's pay to fill up the gas tank each week -- but according to a recent study by a researcher at Umea University in Sweden, there could be another, more unexpected consequence of a long commute: divorce.
The report, which analyzed 10 years of data on more than 2 million couples in Sweden who were either married or co-habitating, found that those in which at least one person had a long commute (more than 30 kilometers, or about 18.6 miles each way) were 40 percent more likely to get divorced than couples with shorter-distance commutes. Chances of separation were highest during the first few years of long-distance commuting, as couples struggled to adapt to the new routine.
Not surprisingly, a big contributor to the higher divorce rate among these couples was the added pressure that a long-distance commute put on life at home. Often, since time spent at home was diminished for one spouse, family and household responsibilities become more burdensome for both spouses, though specific effects differed, based on which person did the commuting, as well as the couple's view on gender roles.
According to the report abstract, for example, "The thesis shows that men's long-distance commuting may serve to reproduce and reinforce traditional gender roles on the labor market and within households [since women spend more time at home and therefore complete more of the household duties]. On the other hand, women's long-distance commuting can lead to more egalitarian relationships on the labor market and within households [since more of the household responsibility falls on the man's shoulders]."
However, the study also found that couples in which the woman was the long-distance commuter often experienced more stress -- especially in those with traditional views on gender roles -- because the woman still felt responsible for a large part of the household and family duties. It also seemed that the overarching tendency was to fall back on more traditional gender roles, as the study found that men were more likely to commute long-distance, while women tended to work closer to home.
Overall, while a long-distance commute was a challenge for many couples, those who were willing to adapt and find creative ways to overcome it were successful. According to the report, "commuters with active, problem-focused strategies can handle commuting challenges efficiently." Successful coping strategies included viewing commuting time as personal time, and using it to listen to music, read (if using public transportation), or mentally shift between work life and home life; as well as setting and sticking to family calendars and schedules to create a more predictable home environment.
What do you think about the correlation between commuting and marriage? Do you think it's valid? Share your thoughts, below.
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Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job seeker blog, The Work Buzz. Kaitlin spends her days researching and writing about all things career-related and trying not to inspire any of her colleagues’ “annoying co-worker” articles. She lives and works in Chicago, but hails from Connecticut and graduated from Northeastern University in Boston with a degree in journalism.