Stress makes life more difficult, whether we’re talking about people who live alone or those who live with a romantic partner. A new study says that stress makes life for couples more difficult in one particular way: making people focus on their partner’s bad habits. This behavior occurred even when couples were in the “honeymoon stage” of their relationship.
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science and was led by a researcher from the University of Texas.
The study involved 79 heterosexual newlywed couples, who were asked to complete surveys each night for 10 days. Before the start of the study, they were asked about the stress in their lives, allowing researchers to develop an understanding of their baseline stress level. Afterward, participants filled out a chart with their and their partner’s behavior every night.
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Researchers claimed they wanted a sample of newlyweds since these people tend to focus on the positive aspect of their relationship, often overlooking their partner’s flaws and negative actions. They found that an accumulation of stress was enough to make participants shift their attention from their partners elsewhere.
“We found that individuals who reported experiencing more stressful life events outside of their relationship, such as problems at work, were especially likely to notice if their partner behaved in an inconsiderate manner,” study lead author Dr. Lisa Neff told told the Daily Mail.
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While the results simply reinforce that stress is bad for relationships no matter at what stage they’re at, researchers think their study shows just how impactful stress can be. “But the fact that we found these effects in a sample of newlyweds speaks to how impactful the effects of stress can be,” said Neff.
She suggests expanding the study to include people at different stages of their relationships, likely showing that stress has a stronger impact on couples that have been together for longer periods of time.