Researchers say the findings suggest newlyweds should consider choosing a home that requires them both to commute in one direction, rather than one located at the midway point between their two work places.
“Couples’ marital satisfaction can depend on whether they commute to work in the same or different directions,” a major newspaper quoted lead researcher Irene Huang, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, as saying.
“Physically moving in a particular goal-relevant direction (e.g. commuting to work) might become associated with more general goal-related concepts,” Huang noted.
The researchers say physical actions are metaphorically linked to wider beliefs and this is exemplified by the use of phrases such as ‘going our separate ways’ to describe couples who separate due to differences in their goals.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, involved two surveys of married working adults, with participants asked how happy they were with their marriage and how satisfied they were with their spouse on a scale of one to nine.
The first survey involved 280 adults in the US, who were aged 33 on average and had been married for an average of eight years.
Huang and her colleagues found a clear correlation between commuting in the same direction and higher marital satisfaction. They also found that this link existed independent of other factors such as number of years married, number of children, income level and differences in actual time spent commuting.
Furthermore, the link did not depend on whether or not couples sometimes left home for work together, meaning it was not due to having the chance to talk together while commuting.
The second survey involved 139 married adults in Hong Kong, who were 42 years old on average and had been married for an average of 13 years.
It showed a similar correlation to the US results, which also held independent of other relevant factors.
A further study involving 80 strangers arranged into pairs showed that they also rated each other more positively if they walked in the same direction to carry out a task.
The experts say this proves the influence of moving on the same direction on ‘interpersonal attraction’ and means the results on marriage could not be simply down to couples who travel the same way to work being more likely to meet for drinks or dinner afterwards.