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Long commutes 'bad for marriage': Swedish study

Rebecca Martin · 24 May 2011, 16:47

Published: 24 May 2011 16:47 GMT+02:00

“To be able to commute to work can be a positive thing because it means you don’t have to uproot your family with every career move but it can also be a strain on your relationship,” said author Erika Sandow to The Local.

According to the study, 11 percent of Swedes have a journey to work that consists of a 45-minute commute or longer. Many commuters have small children and are in a relationship. Most are men.

“One of the long-term risks with commuting is that it can sustain gender-based stereotypes both at home and in the labour market,” Sandow said.

In families where the man commutes, the woman is often forced to take a less qualified job closer to home, which means both less money as well as a larger share of the the responsibility for kids and household.

Although women commuters also experience an increase in salary and career prospects, earlier studies have shown that they experience more stress and feel less successful career-wise than commuting men.

The risk of divorce goes up by 40 percent for commuters and the risk is the highest in the first few years of commuting.

According to the study, most people that start commuting to work continue doing so and more than half that travel a long distance to work today have done so for more than five years.

Five years also seems to be a wathershed because according to the study, most commuters and their families have managed to adapt to the situation by then.

But Sandow adds that they don’t know for certain why that is.

“There could be another selection process at work there as well, that the 'weaker' relationships can’t take that kind of strain in the first place,” she said.

Growing labour market regions may be good for growth but Sandow thinks that it is a pity that the social costs of commuting aren’t brought up more in the debate.

“We don’t know today what the increase in commuting will mean to society in the long run and it is important to look at the social costs involved as well,” Sandow said.

Story continues below…

And more Swedes are travelling farther distances to work.

“The trend is definitely pointing upward. Both the journey to work and the working hours are getting longer, “ Sandow told The Local.

The study was based on statistical data from two million Swedish households between 1995 and 2000.

Rebecca Martin (rebecca.martin@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

18:24 May 24, 2011 by nonefornow
I have been commuting for over 17 years. It takes me an hour and 15 minutes one way. I have been happily married 23 years.Oh I am also a female.
19:11 May 24, 2011 by Observour
There is nothing wrong with a husband earning more than a wife. He spends the money on the family and has self fulfillment as a man. The wife on the other hand feels cared for and the children are raised well by her caring nature. It's good if both parents earn high incomes but if one has to sacrifice job and the other more time working I think the man should work more and the woman is better with the children. For those who believe in evolution, I think this is just one of the pattern that works with your theory. Real men are never satisfied depending on a woman, what's more, they are bad with the children...women are best at multi-tasking and men can't beat in compassion and care.
01:36 May 25, 2011 by jazzIIIlove
Nonefornow, Patrick4141

Mama, Papa

What are you doing here? I am hungry, bring some food for god sake.
05:28 May 25, 2011 by EssenSieMich
I actually prefer long commutes. It gives me more time to spend with my girlfriend and less time around that seething bitch that I married.
07:22 May 25, 2011 by itmustbethedog
This is why I quit my job and went on welfare 20 years ago. My marriage is too important to me to jeopardize it.
08:44 May 25, 2011 by karex
Two hours each way, every day except Fridays when I work by remote from home. It was the price we had to pay to be able to live in a decent home and not a closet with a bathroom and kitchen for an atrocious amount of money. It's a huge sacrifice but it's worth it. BTW, I am female, and my husband works home-based most of the time. I do however wish that it were the other way around... I would rather be the home-based one and let him commute instead.
11:42 May 25, 2011 by storstark
Really? 45 minutes is considered a commute that invokes strain? I work in Nacka and live in Bromma - it can take me an hour to get home sometimes to my pregnant wife... we are in heaven... Why? Cos we've just moved to Bromma. For the last six months I've been commuting 2 hours each way. With the train schedules halved over winter and the countless disruptions... ugh... I ended up being a weekly commuter, staying in Stockholm Monday to Friday, seeing my wife and dog only on the weekends... And it was a strain doing that... Personally, I think that you can begin to gain a certain amount of independence that invokes clashes when you come together and have to compromise again and play married at the weekends. Now I'm back under the thumb and couldn't be more at peace... ;)
12:42 May 25, 2011 by karex
BTW @itmustbethedog, another common cause of divorce is insufficient income... a chronic lack of money leads to perpetual frustration and attrition between the involved parties.
13:06 May 25, 2011 by Puffin
Wow - 45 minutes - luxury

I have been commuting 300km/4 hours per day for 11 years and have been married for 18 years
21:36 May 25, 2011 by karex
@ puffin You commute 300k every day?! OK, I officially feel sorry for you. I have a hard time coping with half that much.
05:40 May 26, 2011 by fatandhappy
@ Essen LOL!
12:39 May 26, 2011 by FourSaabs
45 minute commutes sound like utopia.

I used to drive 17 miles to work, outside of Boston. It often took 2 hours each way.
09:08 May 27, 2011 by nolikegohome
my take on this is simple, you have two choices.

1, live a happy life full of love and enjoy the company of your partner and have a reasonaable comfortable life and be poor.

2, be rich and have no time to spend your money, and have marital problems.

you choose its your life. I am a number one person. Id rather be poor but be happy and in love.

However sometimes u need to commute for a short while to get a few things in order, but only a short while. Your kids need to be near you more than the money u show them.
15:34 May 27, 2011 by MarshaLynn
Our more modern society has many conveniences, such as high speed rail, so that people are able to get to their jobs further away. While modern conveniences have increased, wisdom has not unfortunately. In this day of "women's liberation," what is it they have been liberated to do? Commute to a job, while leaving their own children in the care of others? This is progress? I think not. Marriage is the fundamental unit of society. Childrearing is its most important task. There is no future without it. No healthy future, that is. Take your minds off your own personal self-fulfillment, ladies. Stay home and raise your children. Swedes, have lots of children so that you will have a nation to grow old in.
13:51 May 28, 2011 by philster61
Poor babies..... Don't get married then.....
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