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Daily Work Stress and Relationship Satisfaction: Detachment Affects Romantic Couples’ Interactions Quality

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Abstract

Psychologically detaching from work in the private setting is crucial to recover from work stress and promotes well-being. Moreover, broad evidence documents negative effects of stress on relationship quality. However, the interpersonal consequences of detachment have barely been studied. We seek to investigate, in daily life, whether and how detachment affects the interaction quality with the romantic partner. We propose that stress impedes detaching from work, and that detachment in turn, promotes individuals’ ability to engage in positive interactions at home, which increases individual and relational well-being. In a first experience sampling study, involving 106 dual-earner couples with young children, detachment mediated the association between work stress and not only the stressed individual’s, but also their partner’s relationship quality. However, positive (affectionate) behaviors did not play a significant role in this process. In a second experience sampling study, involving 53 dual-earner couples with preschool children, detachment was associated with more affectionate interactions, which in turn, predicted lower actor, but not partner evening strain. These results suggest that detachment from work not only affects the working individual’s, but also their close partner’s the perception of their interactions, showing that detachment plays an important mediating role in the stress spillover and crossover process. This emphasizes the relevance of addressing interpersonal processes in the association between detachment and well-being.

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Notes

  1. The currency was Swiss francs, but to facilitate understanding, we indicated the amount in USD.

  2. It has to be noted however, that the participants were given the possibility to keep the survey for four additional days, and the present dataset includes the 14 days for all participants. If we only consider the obligatory 10 days, only 8% of the data was missing.

  3. The detachment dimension of the REQ has shown very good reliability both in between- and within-person designs (Feuerhahn et al. 2014; Sonnentag and Fritz 2015).

  4. The size of the partner effect of work-stress on relationship quality differed slightly between men and women (p = .06). But since this was only marginal, and both effects were n.s., we decided to treat them as equal.

  5. In the text, we report the non-standardized coefficient, and in the figures the standardized ones.

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Acknowledgements

The first study was financed by grants PZ00P1_121616 and PZ00P1_136896 from the Swiss National Science Foundation to Dominik Schoebi, the second by a grant from Volkswagen foundation to Petra Klumb. We would like to thank Sylvia Böhme, Cristina Cretulescu, Christine Hennen, Kerstin Kaehlert, and Bianca Kusma for their diligent assistance in recruiting participants. Further thanks are due to Christiane Hoppmann and Melanie Staats. We are very grateful to Andrew Laughton for the reading and edits.

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Debrot, A., Siegler, S., Klumb, P.L. et al. Daily Work Stress and Relationship Satisfaction: Detachment Affects Romantic Couples’ Interactions Quality. J Happiness Stud 19, 2283–2301 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-017-9922-6

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