Long Commutes: Hard on Your Marriage?

by Vault Careers | May 27, 2011

  • My Vault

Married? Add this to your list of job search criteria, alongside with dependent benefits and a 401k: a short commute. A new study in Sweden suggests that your chances of a divorce jump 40% with a commute of 45 minutes or longer.

The simple decrease in face time between spouses may be to blame for the reported marital woes (combined, 45 minutes to and from work equals an extra hour and a half spent away from the home). But since the study notes that most commuters are men, not women, the dynamics may be more complex.

Writes Erika Sandow, "…men’s long-distance commuting may therefore serve to reproduce and reinforce traditional gender roles on the labour market and within households." That means women whose husbands commute tend to shoulder more of the household responsibilities, while simultaneously shrinking down their own career ambitions.

Husbands who work long hours—even far from home shift more household duties onto their wives' shoulders. And if children are involved, husbands' far away jobs may also force wives take work closer to home, shrinking their pool of available job options. That imbalance in opportunities and household responsibilities may cause tension.

This may come as harsh news to workers that the poor real estate market has pushed to the outer boroughs, or those who rely on public transit and carpools due to high gas prices. New Yorkers, who already have the longest commute in the country (and whom the MTA has admitted a 10% increase in late service to) may be already be experiencing commutes in the danger zone.

Luckily, the risk of divorce tends to be highest in the first few years of long commutes, and decreases over time. It's also important to note that 45-plus-minute commute times are rarenin Sweden, so it may be that locals have simply not learned to adapt to yet. New York City dwellers, on the other hand, have one of the lowest divorce rates in the United States, despite their long commutes. This suggests that adjusting is entirely possible.

Still, the high cost in both money and stress alone may be reason enough to look for work closer to home. Or, have your wife do the commuting—according to Sandow's study, "…women’s long-distance commuting can lead to more equalitarian relationships on the labour market and within households."

Read the Study

--Cathy Vandewater, Vault.com

Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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