For most people, maintaining a satisfying marriage is one of the most important goals in life. Yet many couples have difficulties to achieve this goal.
On one hand, initial feelings of love and optimism change into feelings of distress; on the other hand, stress from outside world, such as financial problems, job loss and illness, can reduce happiness in marriage.
In a paper published in Current Opinion in Psychology, researchers discuss how socioeconomic stress can influence marriage. They claim that stress can affect marriage in two ways.
First, stress creates additional problems within the marriage. Studies showed that low income is an important factor causing stress. Low income spouses are usually surrounded by several negative stressors, such as unemployment, non-standard work hours, unsafe neighborhoods, poor transportation, debts, and little social support.
These stressors can lead to disconnection and social withdrawal when partners return home from work. Usually this should be the time full of care and love. They may be more distracted and less responsive when talking with their partner.
In addition, when they spend their limited time together, they may focus on negotiating the household budget, rather than going out for dinner and a movie.
When couples have less stressors, however, this end-of-day reunion may be filled with intimate conversations or planning fun leisure activities together. They may also share interesting experiences in daily life.
Researchers suggest that when facing lots of stress, couples should try to maintain the intimacy within the marriage. They should give attention to their partner’s feelings, and try to understand their partner’s opinion and attitude.
Second, stress can hinder constructive responses to marital problems. Couples with a lot of stress may change their behavior that can help communication. For example, a person may forgive her/his partner’s insensitive behavior in normal situations. But under lots of pressure, s/he might be not generous.
In addition, when couples experiencing greater financial strain, they may not use effective way to solve their problems. For instance, they may refuse to discuss the issue or become defensive.
Researcher suggest that couples should maintain effective communication. They need to give their partner more patience, remain calm when the partner makes a critical remark, and adopt the partner’s perspective during conflicts.
To summarize, to protect marriage from stress, couples need to maintain their intimacy and keep constructive communication. Furthermore, they need to do things to improve their finance situation. The things include getting job skills training, child care assistance, and health care subsidies. These things can stable their marriage.
Citation: Neff LA, Karney BR. (2017). Acknowledging the elephant in the room: how stressful environmental contexts shape relationship dynamics. Current Opinion in Psychology 2017, 13:107–110. doi: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.05.013
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is for illustrative purposes only.