Research Reveals How Life Stressors Can Distort Your View Of Your Relationship

Almost two-thirds of U.S. adults said the pandemic significantly changed their lives, and 87% of people said we've been hit with one crisis after another in the past two years, according to the American Psychological Association. Although stress can affect your body, mood, and behavior (via Mayo Clinic), it can also affect how you see others. According to a new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science, life stressors can bias the behavior of your significant other.

The study followed 79 newlywed couples and asked them to complete a daily diary about their relationship and stress levels. The couples who were experiencing heavy amounts of stress were more likely to notice their partner's negative behaviors rather than positive ones. These couples were more likely to pick up on broken promises, angry outbursts, or criticism (via a press release about the study). Overall, the couples going through stressful events perceived their partners more negatively than the couples who had less stress.

One of the study's authors, Dr. Lisa Neff from the University of Texas at Austin, said in a press release that perceiving a partner's negative behaviors can affect the future of the relationship.

Leaving the honeymoon phase

According to the Cleveland Clinic, new couples often encounter a "honeymoon phase," where life with their partner seems to be perfect. Although you might encounter bad days, you tend to feel there are more good days because of the relationship. Because your partner's presence gives you a hit of dopamine, you're less likely to see any flaws in your partner. Dr. Neff said in a news release that this relationship phase made the results of this study more striking. She hopes to explore future research studies on relationships that have survived after the honeymoon.

"One direction would be to examine if the harmful effects of stress might be even stronger among couples no longer in the newlywed phase of their relationships, but the fact that we found these effects in a sample of newlyweds speaks to how impactful the effects of stress can be," Dr. Neff said via the press release.

According to a 2013 study in Couple and Family Psychology, one of the most common reasons for divorce is arguing, and people often blame their partners for the divorce.