Driving Your Partner Away

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Your long commute could be affecting your relationship.

Your long commute to work isn’t just time consuming: It could be harming your relationship. Couples in which at least one partner had a 45-minute commute were 40 percent more likely to separate than the average couple, according to a recent study by a researcher at Umeå University in Sweden.

Though hardcore commuters tend to earn higher salaries and have more job opportunities than those who spend less time behind the wheel, those gains come with significant social costs. Commuting puts a strain on relationships in two key ways, notes Patricia Leavy, PhD, a sociologist at Stonehill College whose book, Low-Fat Love (Sense Publishers, 2011), explores the psychology of unhealthy relationships. “Long commutes mean less time together, and commuters are likely to feel more harried and tired,” she says. “It’s this combination that makes it harder for couples to spend quality time together,” she says.

The partner who stays closer to home can also feel resentful about the extra responsibilities he or she may shoulder while the other is on the road, adds Howard Markman, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Denver and coauthor of Fighting for Your Marriage (Jossey-Bass, 2010).

Leavy and Markman offer a few strategies to stay connected with your sweetie, no matter how much time the two of you spend commuting:

  • Spend leisure days prioritizing activities that can be done together, rather than individual activities.
  • If you’re the commuter, call or text your partner right before you leave to let him or her know you’re on your way — and that you can’t wait to get home.
  • If your partner is the one who’s on the road, be sure you give him or her 15 minutes to decompress after getting home before discussing work and household responsibilities. Markman also recommends talking about lighter topics first before any stressors. Get more commute-decompression tips in “Making the Transition.”

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