Working hours ‘do not damage relationships’

Relationships|January 7th 2016

Long working hours do not have a damaging effect on romantic relationships according to new European research.

Psychology professor Dr Dana Unger of Swiss university ETH Zurich worked with colleagues from German universities to explore the link between relationships and time spent at work. They examined the lifestyles of 285 dual career couples over a six month period.

They sought to establish the truth of the “conventional wisdom” that a demanding career and strong relationships are mutually exclusive. But instead they found no link. Instead of neglecting their relationships, couples in which parties were involved in busy careers on average made a greater effort with their partners when they were together and as a result tended to enjoy a happier relationship. The report refers to this strategy as ‘selective optimisation with compensation’ (SOC).

It explains:

“… working time spent by partners in dual-career couples was associated with selective optimization with compensation in their private life that, in turn, predicted relationship satisfaction.”

The researchers add:

“Long hours at work seem to increase the salience of the SOC strategies [i.e. how much they are used] because simultaneous goal attainment at work and at home [i.e. a person’s desire for both a satisfying career and a happy home life] is at stake when working long hours ….”

The research was published in the academic journal Human Relations.

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