Most couples feel lucky if they both have jobs in a tough economy. Yet work-related stress - heightened job insecurity, increased workloads and subservience to a seven-day work cycle - can feel relentless. When job tension infuses a relationship, one or both partners can feel isolated, ignored and frustrated. Research now proves the lack of emotional support from a spouse can be a deal-breaker in a marriage and represents a major cause of divorce and career derailment.

Most couples feel lucky if they both have jobs in a tough economy. Yet work-related stress - heightened job insecurity, increased workloads and subservience to a seven-day work cycle - can feel relentless. When job tension infuses a relationship, one or both partners can feel isolated, ignored and frustrated. Research now proves the lack of emotional support from a spouse can be a deal-breaker in a marriage and represents a major cause of divorce and career derailment.


A new study by the Florida State University College of Business, as reported in Newswise, surveyed more than 400 working couples. They were asked to rate (low to high) statements such as, “The most important thing in my life is being a good parent and/or spouse,” or “I have faith that my spouse will be there for me through thick or thin.” High marks in spousal support translated into direct and positive benefits in one’s attitude at home and on the job.


• 50 percent higher rates of satisfaction with their marriage.


?• 33 percent greater likelihood of having positive relationships with co-workers.


?• 30 percent lower likelihood of experiencing guilt associated with home/family neglect.


?• 30 percent lower likelihood of being critical of others (spouse, children) at home.


• 25 percent higher rates of concentration levels at work.


?• 25 percent lower likelihood of experiencing fatigue at home after work.


• 25 percent higher rates of satisfaction with the amount of time spent with their children.


?• 20 percent higher views that their careers were heading in the right direction.


• 20 percent higher level of job satisfaction.


Conversely, stressed-out employees who did not garner coping support from their spouses fared poorly at work and at home. Negative spousal behavior identified in the study included creating distance from the family, lashing out, time-consuming complaints of minor irritants, blaming the other, unforgiving attitudes, and “one-upmanship” in who was more stressed. “Once spouses show that they don’t care, are not to be counted on, and are only interested in having their needs met, relations begin to spiral downward, often becoming unsalvageable,” said Dr. Wayne Hochwarter, the study’s author and lead researcher. 


The survey did not address any religious components, nor did it contain faith-based questions. Yet spirituality did play a major role among participants, as observed indirectly by Dr. Hochwarter, a Jim Moran Professor of Management at Florida State University who specializes in organizational behavior.


The 100-question survey produced data about attitudes regarding the priority of family, measurable selfishness, or the ability to withstand pressures. Dr. Hochwarter observed that people of faith were more likely to be positive, though he stresses his casual observations are unofficial. “But there’s enough meat on those bones to make a compelling case that those who put family first over work better managed job stress, and those who put family first were strongly influenced by their faith and their “big-picture” beliefs. They stepped outside of the inherent selfishness that many people have, instead deciding that it is best for the marriage to give rather than expect to receive,” he said.


Those focused mainly on their own needs do not do well in life. The wellbeing of a relationship is built on trust, communication, and a willingness to help the other. Those who lived by spiritual tenets had a better handle on what’s truly important in life, according to Dr. Hochwarter who said, “People of faith think of themselves as a piece of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle.”      


The study confirms that a strong relationship has a positive ripple effect on one’s career. Dr. Hochwarter concluded that people who ranked their careers and “being a good employee” first and foremost made poor life partners if they were unable to dedicate ample time and commitment to their families.


“It’s basically selfish and self-serving, and if it’s all about you, then you’ll end up with just you,” said the expert.


Contact Suzette Standring at suzmar@comcast.net or visit www.readsuzette.com. She teaches writing workshops nationally based on her award-winning book, “The Art of Column Writing.” She is syndicated with GateHouse News Service.