Working from home together during the pandemic has put considerable strain on people’s relationships.
One of the major reasons is the disruption of each other’s routines.
Now, a new study has found that couples who interfere more with each other’s routines experience greater anger and sadness.
This leads to perceiving the relationship as more turbulent.
Greater awareness and consideration of your partner’s routines, though, can help reduce relationship strain.
Mr Kevin Knoster, the study’s first author, explained:
“When you are impeding your significant other from accomplishing their goals or are disrupting their daily routines, there will be emotional responses.
Based on our findings, more interference from your spouse leads to sadness and anger, and that’s independent from one another.
This can lead to perceptions of a turbulent relationship.”
The study included 165 couples who were surveyed during the first peak of the pandemic in April 2020.
They were asked how much their spouse disrupted their routine and how they viewed the relationship.
The researchers interpreted the results using ‘relational turbulence theory’.
This is the idea that periods of instability can easily create problems within the relationship.
Partners can feel more uncertain about their commitment to the relationship and its future.
Like many of those in his study and around the world, Mr Knoster found himself experiencing ‘relationship turbulence’:
“Like a lot of people, we, too, had to adapt on the fly all of a sudden to working from home.
Our routines were in a state of a flux.”
Mr Knoster ended up disrupting his wife’s routines from time-to-time:
“I step on her toes every now and then.
I teach classes from home (on the computer) and her office is through a closed door behind me.
If she needs to go to the restroom, she has to walk behind me so she may be thinking, ‘Do I need to coordinate with his schedule just to wash my hands?’
It’s changed our professional lives and personal lives in more ways than we think.”
The answer is to be more considerate, says Mr Knoster:
“…when you and your partner support each other’s goals and accommodate routines, that elicits positive emotional reactions.
We need to remember to catch our breaths for a moment and work together.
It’s more important now that we’re sort of sequestered inside at all hours of the day and starting to feel like rats in a cage.”
The study was published in the journal Communication Research Reports (Knoster et al., 2020).