Jobs and the issues associated with them are often a source of friction among committed couples. Whether it's working late or the stress of dealing with difficult colleagues or bosses, the frustrations that build up throughout the workday aren't always left at the front doorstep -- and that's doubly true when both partners face challenges at work.
New research suggests, however, that two-income couples in nurturing relationships are able to better weather workplace turbulence than those who don't get much support from their spouses.
The rise in the number of two-income households means many more couples today are dealing with both the stress of work and home life, says study author, Wayne Hochwarter, a professor of business administration at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
"Given that a lack of support from one's spouse represents a major cause of both divorce and career derailment, this research is needed to address issues that affect both home and work," Hochwarter says in a statement accompanying results of the study.
The study examined more than 400 working heterosexual couples from both blue- and white-collar occupations. Those who reported high levels of stress but strong spousal support -- compared to stressed-out employees without much support -- reported positive benefits, such as:
- 50 percent higher rates of satisfaction with their marriage
- 33 percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers
- 30 percent lower likelihood of experiencing guilt associated with home/family neglect
- 30 percent lower likelihood of being critical of others (spouse, children) at home
- 25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work
"When you're still angry or upset from yesterday's stress, your workday will likely go in only one direction -- down," he says.
Further, Hochwarter says he identified key factors distinguishing favorable from unfavorable support, noting that some attempts to support stressed-out spouses may backfire and make matters worse.
Those who did receive strong support at home, however, shared several common characteristics, including:
- Awareness of one's spouse's daily work demands caused by a lack of resources, deadlines and supervisors
- Understanding that communication lines are open regardless of the circumstances
- Recognizing that distancing oneself from the family or lashing out isn't a practical way to foster help. In fact, it tends to bring out the worst in others -- and even causes the supporting spouse to become distant and act out as well
- Not bombarding the family with complaints about minor workplace irritants.
- Not trying to "one-up" one's spouse in terms of who has had the worse day
- Not keeping a running tab on who is giving and who is getting
The research showed it was most important for spouses to offer support on days when they themselves need it just as much, Hochwarter says. "Successful couples almost always kept a steady supply of support resources on reserve to be tapped on particularly demanding days."
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