Study: You’re More Likely to Have Stress in Your Relationship When You Do This

Stress makes life more difficult, whether it’s for people living alone or for people living with a romantic partner. A new study says stress complicates couples’ lives in one way: it makes people focus on their partner’s bad habits. This behavior even occurred when couples were in the “honeymoon” phase of their relationship.

The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and led by a University of Texas researcher.

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The study involved 79 heterosexual newlywed couples who were asked to complete surveys every night for 10 days. Before starting the study, they were asked about the stress in their lives, which allowed the researchers to develop an understanding of their baseline stress levels. After that, each night the participants filled out a chart of their behavior and that of their partner.

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The researchers claimed they wanted a sample of newlyweds because these people tend to focus on the positive aspect of their relationship and often overlook their partner’s faults and negative actions. They found that an accumulation of stress was enough to get participants to shift their attention from their partners to something else.

“We found that people who reported having experienced more stressful life events outside of their relationship, such as problems at work, were particularly likely to notice when their partner was being inconsiderate,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Lisa Neff, opposite the Daily Mail.

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While the results simply reinforce that stress is bad for relationships, no matter what stage they’re in, the researchers believe their study shows just how powerful stress can be. “But the fact that we found these effects in a sample of newlyweds speaks to how powerful the effects of stress can be,” Neff said.

She suggests expanding the study to include people at different stages in their relationship, which likely shows that stress has a greater impact on couples who have been together longer.

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