Skip to main content

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

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

Notes

  1. 1.

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

  2. 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. 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. 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. 5.

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

References

  1. Allen, T. D., Cho, E., & Meier, L. L. (2014). Work–family boundary dynamics. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 1(1), 99–121. doi:10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-031413-091330.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Almeida, D. M. (2016). Resilience and vulnerability to daily stressors assessed via diary methods. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14(2), 64–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. American Psychological Association. (2016). 2016 Work and well-being survey. Retrieved from https://apa.org/news/press/releases/phwa/index.aspx.

  4. Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples’ shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2013). The spillover-crossover model. In J. G. Grzywacz & E. Demerouti (Eds.), New frontiers in work and family research (pp. 54–70). New York: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bauer, D. J. (2003). Estimating multilevel linear models as structural equation models. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 28, 135–167. doi:10.3102/10769986028002135.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Bolger, N., & Laurenceau, J.-P. (2013). Intensive longitudinal methods: An introduction to diary and experience sampling research. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Booth, C. L., Clarke-Stewart, K. A., Vandell, D. L., McCartney, K., & Owen, M. T. (2002). Child-care usage and mother-infant “quality time”. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64, 16–26. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2002.00016.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Brosschot, J. F. (2010). Markers of chronic stress: Prolonged physiological activation and (un)conscious perseverative cognition. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 35(1), 46–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Brosschot, J. F., Gerin, W., & Thayer, J. F. (2006). The perseverative cognition hypothesis: A review of worry, prolonged stress-related physiological activation, and health. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 60(2), 113–124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Buck, A. A., & Neff, L. A. (2012). Stress spillover in early marriage: The role of self-regulatory depletion. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 698–708. doi:10.1037/a0029260.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Carnes, A. M. (2017). Bringing work stress home: The impact of role conflict and role overload on spousal marital satisfaction. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 90, 153–176. doi:10.1111/joop.12163.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Cohen, S., & Pressman, S. (2004). The stress-buffering hypothesis. In N. B. Anderson (Ed.), Encyclopedia of health and behavior (pp. 780–782). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Conner, T. S., & Lehman, B. J. (2012). Getting started: Launching a study in daily life. In M. R. Mehl & T. S. Conner (Eds.), Handbook of research methods for studying daily life (pp. 89–107). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Danner-Vlaardingerbroek, G., Kluwer, E. S., van Steenbergen, E. F., & van der Lippe, T. (2013). Knock, knock, anybody home? Psychological availability as link between work and relationship. Personal Relationships, 20, 52–68. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6811.2012.01396.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Danner-Vlaardingerbroek, G., Kluwer, E. S., van Steenbergen, E. F., & van der Lippe, T. (2016). How work spills over into the relationship: Self-control matters. Personal Relationships, 23(3), 441–455. doi:10.1111/pere.12136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Debrot, A., Meuwly, N., Muise, A., Impett, E. A., & Schoebi, D. (2017). More than just sex: Affection mediates the association between sexual activity and well-being. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43, 287–299. doi:10.1177/0146167216684124.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Debrot, A., Schoebi, D., Perrez, M., & Horn, A. B. (2013). Touch as an interpersonal emotion regulation process in couples’ daily lives: The mediating role of psychological intimacy. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 1373–1385. doi:10.1177/0146167213497592.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Debrot, A., Schoebi, D., Perrez, M., & Horn, A. B. (2014). Stroking your beloved one’s white bear: Responsive touch by the romantic partner buffers the negative effect of thought suppression on daily mood. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 33, 75–97. doi:10.1521/jscp.2014.33.1.75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Demerouti, E., Bakker, A. B., Sonnentag, S., & Fullagar, C. J. (2012). Work-related flow and energy at work and at home: A study on the role of daily recovery. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33, 276–295. doi:10.1002/job.760.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Demsky, C. A., Ellis, A. M., & Fritz, C. (2014). Shrugging it off: Does psychological detachment from work mediate the relationship between workplace aggression and work-family conflict? Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 19, 195–205. doi:10.1037/a0035448.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Ditzen, B., Hoppmann, C., & Klumb, P. (2008). Positive couple interactions and daily cortisol: On the stress-protecting role of intimacy. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70, 883–889.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Eurofound. (2015). First findings: Sixth European working conditions survey. Sixth European working conditions survey: 15,68 EN. Luxembourg: Publications Office.

  24. Feuerhahn, N., Sonnentag, S., & Woll, A. (2014). Exercise after work, psychological mediators, and affect: A day-level study. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 23(1), 62–79. doi:10.1080/1359432X.2012.709965.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Floyd, K. (2008). Communicating affection: Interpersonal behavior and social context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Floyd, K., Hess, J. A., Miczo, L. A., Halone, K. K., Mikkelson, A. C., & Tusing, K. J. (2005). Human affection exchange: VIII. Further evidence of the benefits of expressed affection. Communication Quarterly, 53(3), 285–303. doi:10.1080/01463370500101071.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Floyd, K., & Riforgiate, S. (2008). Affectionate communication received from spouses predicts stress hormone levels in healthy adults. Communication Monographs, 75(4), 351–368. doi:10.1080/03637750802512371.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., & Mark, P. Z. (2010). Good news! Capitalizing on positive events in an interpersonal context. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (pp. 195–257). New York: Elsevier Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Hahn, V. C., & Dormann, C. (2013). The role of partners and children for employees’ psychological detachment from work and well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98, 26–36. doi:10.1037/a0030650.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.44.3.513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Hobfoll, S. E. (2002). Social and psychological resources and adaptation. Review of General Psychology, 6(4), 307–324. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.6.4.307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Iwasaki, Y. (2006). Counteracting stress through leisure coping: A prospective health study. Psychology, Health and Medicine, 11, 209–220. doi:10.1080/13548500500155941.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Kenny, D. A., Kashy, D. A., & Cook, W. L. (2006). Dyadic data analysis. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Kenny, D. A., & Malloy, T. E. (1988). Partner effects in social interaction. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 12, 34–57. doi:10.1007/BF00987351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Klumb, P. L., Voelkle, M. C., & Siegler, S. (2016). How negative social interactions at work seep into the home: A prosocial and an antisocial pathway. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 5(3), 354. doi:10.1002/job.2154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Lavner, J. A., & Clark, M. A. (2017). Workload and marital satisfaction over time: Testing lagged spillover and crossover effects during the newlywed years. Journal of Vocational Behavior. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2017.05.002.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Lepine, J. A., Podsakoff, N. P., & Lepine, M. A. (2005). A meta-analytic test of the challenge stressor–hindrance stressor framework: An explanation for inconsistent relationships among stressors and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 48(5), 764–775. doi:10.5465/AMJ.2005.18803921.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. MacGeorge, E. L., Graves, A. R., Feng, B., Gillihan, S. J., & Burleson, B. R. (2004). The myth of gender cultures: Similarities outweigh differences in men’s and women’s provision of and responses to supportive communication. Sex Roles, 50, 143–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Meier, L. L., & Cho, E. (2015). How job demands have an effect on social undermining towards the partner: Three studies about the role of lack of psychological detachment. Paper presented at the 9th Conference of the Section for Work and Organizational Psychology of the German Psychological Society, Mainz, Germany.

  40. Meier, L. L., Cho, E., & Dumani, S. (2015). The effect of positive work reflection during leisure time on affective well-being: Results from three diary studies. Journal of Organizational Behavior. doi:10.1002/job.2039.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus user’s guide (7th Ed). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.

  42. Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2004). How does context affect intimate relationships? Linking external stress and cognitive processes within marriage. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 134–148. doi:10.1177/0146167203255984.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2007). Stress crossover in newlywed marriage: A longitudinal and dyadic perspective. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 594–607. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2007.00394.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Neff, L. A., & Karney, B. R. (2009). Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97, 435–450. doi:10.1037/a0015663.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Nohe, C., Meier, L. L., Sonntag, K., & Michel, A. (2015). The chicken or the egg? A meta-analysis of panel studies of the relationship between work-family conflict and strain. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100, 522–536. doi:10.1037/a0038012.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Park, Y., & Haun, V. C. (2016). Dual-earner couples’ weekend recovery support, state of recovery, and work engagement: Work-linked relationship as a moderator. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. doi:10.1037/ocp0000045.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Preacher, K. J., Zyphur, M. J., & Zhang, Z. (2010). A general multilevel SEM framework for assessing multilevel mediation. Psychological Methods, 15, 209–233. doi:10.1037/a0020141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Querstret, D., & Cropley, M. (2012). Exploring the relationship between work-related rumination, sleep quality, and work-related fatigue. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17, 341–353. doi:10.1037/a0028552.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Randall, A. K., & Bodenmann, G. (2009). The role of stress on close relationships and marital satisfaction. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 105–115. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2008.10.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Reis, H. T. (2012). Why researchers should think “real-world”: A conceptual rationale. In M. R. Mehl & T. S. Conner (Eds.), Handbook of research methods for studying daily life (pp. 3–21). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Reis, H. T., & Wheeler, L. (1991). Studying social interaction with the Rochester interaction record. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 24, pp. 269–318). San Diego: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Repetti, R. L., & Wood, J. (1997). Effects of daily stress at work on mothers’ interactions with preschoolers. Journal of Family Psychology, 11, 90–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Richardson, K. M., & Thompson, C. A. (2012). High tech tethers and work-family conflict: A conservation of resources approach. Engineering Management Research. doi:10.5539/emr.v1n1p29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Robles, T. F., Slatcher, R. B., Trombello, J. M., & McGinn, M. M. (2014). Marital quality and health: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 140–187. doi:10.1037/a0031859.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Rogers, S. J., & May, D. C. (2003). Spillover between marital quality and job satisfaction: Long-term patterns and gender differences. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 482–495. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2003.00482.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Schimmack, U., & Rainer, R. (2002). Experiencing activation: Energetic arousal and tense arousal are not mixtures of valence and activation. Emotion, 2, 412–417. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.2.4.412.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Schoebi, D., Perrez, M., & Bradbury, T. N. (2012). Expectancy effects on marital interaction: Rejection sensitivity as a critical moderator. Journal of Family Psychology, 26, 709–718. doi:10.1037/a0029444.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Schulz, M. S., Cowan, P. A., Pape Cowan, C., & Brennan, R. T. (2004). Coming home upset: Gender, marital satisfaction, and the daily spillover of workday experience into couple interactions. Journal of Family Psychology, 18, 250–263. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.18.1.250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Schwarz, N. (2012). Why researches should think “real-time”: A cognitive rationale. In M. R. Mehl & T. S. Conner (Eds.), Handbook of research methods for studying daily life (pp. 22–42). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Slatcher, R. B., Robles, T. F., Repetti, R. L., & Fellows, M. D. (2010). Momentary work worries, marital disclosure, and salivary cortisol among parents of young children. Psychosomatic Medicine, 72, 887–896. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181f60fcc.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Sonnentag, S. (2011). Recovery from fatigue: The role of psychological detachment. In P. L. Ackerman (Ed.), Cognitive fatigue: Multidisciplinary perspectives on current research and future applications (pp. 253–272). Washington: American Psychological Association.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  62. Sonnentag, S., & Bayer, U.-V. (2005). Switching off mentally: Predictors and consequences of psychological detachment from work during off-job time. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 393–414. doi:10.1037/1076-8998.10.4.393.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2007). The recovery experience questionnaire: Development and validation of a measure for assessing recuperation and unwinding from work. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(3), 204–221.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Sonnentag, S., & Fritz, C. (2015). Recovery from job stress: The stressor-detachment model as an integrative framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 36(S1), S72–S103. doi:10.1002/job.1924.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  65. Steiner, R. S., & Krings, F. (2016). How was your day, darling? A literature review of positive and negative crossover at the work-family interface in couples. European Psychologist, 21, 296–315. doi:10.1027/1016-9040/a000275.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Steyer, R., Schwenkmezger, P., Notz, P., & Eid, M. (1997). Der mehrdimensionale Befindlichkeitsfragebogen (MDBF). Handanweisung [The multidimensional affect rating scale (MDBF). Manual]. Göttingen: Hogrefe.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Taylor, S. E. (2006). Tend and befriend: Biobehavioral bases of affiliation under stress. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 273–277. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2006.00451.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. ten Brummelhuis, L. L., & Bakker, A. B. (2012). Staying engaged during the week: The effect of off-job activities on next day work engagement. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 17, 445–455. doi:10.1037/a0029213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  69. Timmons, A. C., Arbel, R., & Margolin, G. (2017). Daily patterns of stress and conflict in couples: Associations with marital aggression and family-of-origin aggression. Journal of Family Psychology, 31(1), 93–104. doi:10.1037/fam0000227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  70. Unger, D., Sonnentag, S., Niessen, C., & Kuonath, A. (2017). Love won’t tear us apart but work might: How job stressors relate to constructive and destructive reactions to one’s romantic partner’s negative behavior. International Journal of Stress Management, 24(Suppl 1), 74–97. doi:10.1037/str0000034.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  71. Wang, S.-W., & Repetti, R. L. (2012). After the workday ends: How jobs impact family relationships. In A. L. Vangelisti (Ed.), Routledge handbook of family communication (2nd ed., pp. 409–423). New York, NY: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Wendsche, J., & Lohmann-Haislah, A. (2016). A meta-analysis on antecedents and outcomes of detachment from work. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 2072. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.02072.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  73. Wenzlaff, R. M., & Luxton, D. D. (2003). The role of thought suppression in depressive rumination. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 27, 293–308. doi:10.1023/A:1023966400540.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  74. Westman, M., Vinokur, A. D., Hamilton, V. L., & Roziner, I. (2004). Crossover of marital dissatisfaction during military downsizing among Russian army officers and their spouses. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 769–779. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.89.5.769.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anik Debrot.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 24 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Psychological detachment from work
  • Relationship quality
  • Affection
  • Work stress
  • Spillover and crossover
  • Strain
  • Romantic relationships
  • Well-being