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Long Commutes Can Drive Up Divorce Risk

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Compared to their locally employed counterparts, commuting couples face a rocky marital road, Swedish researchers report. According to a study of 2 million Swedes, couples in which one person commutes 45 minutes or longer are 40 percent more likely to divorce.

"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," Erika Sandow, a social geographer at Umea University and lead author of the study, told the Swedish publication The Local.

The decision to commute can stem from career aspirations, economic woes, and ties to social support in a particular place, according to Susan Heitler, a Denver psychologist and marriage counselor. And on top of life's other pressures, it can leave both partners feeling overworked and underappreciated.

"It's like a perfect storm. The couple can't realize that the problem is the commute, not the other person," Heitler said, explaining the tendency to personalize problems and get defensive. "Once you get angry, upset and frustrated, it's easy to start pointing fingers."

At a time when relocation or landing a new job are unrealistic options for many Americans, less dramatic, more nuanced solutions can make it easier to find middle ground, Heitler said.

"You need to drop down to explore the underlying concerns on both sides," she said.

Dedicating one night of the week to the commuter, or spending a little cash on help around the house can relieve some of the stress for both partners, Heitler said. And having an open, honest conversation about the pros and cons of the commute is key.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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