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Stress ‘may cause people to focus more on their loved one’s bad habits’

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Stress can cause people to focus more on their spouse’s bad habits — even married couples who are still in the “honeymoon period” of their relationship, research shows

  • Researchers warn that stress can cause people to focus more on their loved one’s bad habits
  • Previous studies have shown that stressful life circumstances can affect the way couples interact
  • Experts now think that stress can affect which actions partners notice in the first place
  • Negative habits include breaking a promise by the spouse, showing anger or impatience

Stressful living conditions can cause people to focus more on their spouse’s bad habits, a new study has warned.

Researchers say this is true even for couples who are still in the “honeymoon” period of their relationship.

Previous studies have shown that stressful life circumstances can affect the way couples interact, but this new study shows that a person experiencing stress is more likely to notice their partner’s negative behavior than positive.

Researchers now believe that stress can affect which actions partners notice in the first place.

The negative actions included a spouse breaking a promise, showing anger or impatience, or criticizing their partner.

Tensions: Stress can make people focus more on their loved one’s bad habits, new study has warned (stock image)

WHAT ARE THE BAD HABITS PEOPLE SEE IN THEIR PARTNERS?

The negative aspects of a person’s behavior that people focused on in their loved one included:

– A husband who breaks a promise

– Show anger

– Being impatient

– Criticizing their partner

Principal investigator Dr. Lisa Neff, of the University of Texas, said: “We found that individuals who reported experiencing more stressful life events outside of their relationship, such as problems at work, were more likely to notice if their partner was behaving inconsiderately. way.’

The research team asked 79 heterosexual newlyweds to complete a short survey every evening for 10 days, in which they documented both their own behavior and that of their partner.

Before the study period began, participants completed a questionnaire in which they shared details about stressful events in their lives.

dr. Neff said studying newlyweds reveals the significance of the results, because during the “honeymoon” period, couples tend to focus on each other’s positive behaviors and overlook negative actions.

“The past few years have been difficult for many people — and the stress of the pandemic continues,” she said.

“If stress draws individuals’ attention to their partner’s more inconsiderate behavior, it is likely to negatively affect the relationship.”

The researchers found that a single stressful day wasn’t enough to get someone to focus on their partner’s negative behavior, but a prolonged accumulation of stressful life circumstances can cause a shift in their attention.

The findings also suggest that those who were under stress were not less likely to notice their partner’s positive behavior, but were more likely to notice inconsiderate actions.

Researchers say this is true even for married couples who are still in the 'honeymoon' period of their relationship

Researchers say this is true even for married couples who are still in the ‘honeymoon’ period of their relationship

While it’s possible that by being aware of the effects of stress, couples can correct their behavior and limit the damage to their relationship, believes Dr. Neff that this can only be speculated until further studied.

She said future research would do well to extend the study beyond the honeymoon phase.

“One direction would be to explore whether the damaging effects of stress could be even stronger in couples who are no longer in the newlywed phase of their relationship,” added Dr. Neff to it.

“But the fact that we found these effects in a sample of newlyweds says something about the impact that stress can have.”

The study is published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

THE BRAIN IN LOVE

The frontal cortex, vital to judgment, shuts down when we fall in love. MRI scans show that this deactivation only occurs when someone is shown a picture of the person they adore, suspending any criticism or doubt.

Semir Zeki, professor of neuroaesthetics at University College London, said: ‘When you look at someone you are passionate about, some parts of the brain become active,’ he says. “But a large part has been deactivated, the part that plays a role in the assessment.”

Prof Zeki believes the brain can behave in this way for ‘higher biological purposes’ – it makes reproduction more likely.

If judgment is suspended, the most unlikely pair can come together and reproduce. Someone who is in love will still be able to make other important decisions in their life, from closing a business deal to choosing a new mortgage.

And this common sense makes it harder for friends to convince them ‘they’ve said goodbye to their senses’ when it comes to an unwise affair.

Brain scans have also shown that the area of ​​the brain that controls fear, and another area involved in negative emotions, shuts down, explaining why people feel so happy with the world — and not afraid of what could go wrong. go – if they fall head over heels.

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