Relationship ‘jet lag’ can impact mental health, new study shows.
It’s no secret that relationships are hard. They take a lot of time, effort, and energy to maintain. And even when we’re putting in all of that work, there’s no guarantee that things will stay smooth sailing. There will be arguments, there will be disagreements, and there will be times when we just don’t see eye to eye. That’s all part of being in a relationship. But even though relationships are hard, they’re also incredibly rewarding. When things are going well, there’s nothing better than feeling loved and supported by a partner. It can actually improve one’s mental health to feel safe and supported by another person. However, there’s still a pesky thing called ‘jet lag.’
With all of that juggling, a new study recently published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology serves to examine why there seems to be a constant battle between pulling together and being at odds between partners. The writers coin the term used in the study “relationship jet lag’ and they try to come up with reasons why such jet lag occurs. The research team also tries to determine what couples can do about it.
“For many of us, these transitions happen every day,” explains psychologist Danielle Weber, the lead author of the research. “If you live with your partner, you experience a transition when you reunite with your partner after a day at work and you will transition again the next morning when you leave your partner to go to work.”
Whether it be a subtle ‘jet lag’ like going to work or that one is feeling too mentally caught up in work to focus on their partner or an argument with that partner is keeping them from putting in the work— according to Weber, “In both these cases, you might be experiencing relationship ‘jet lag,’ or the feeling that you and your partner are in traveling in different time zones and aren’t quite synced up.”
These problems are compounded for couples that are living apart, especially at a long distance.
“I think relationship jet lag can happen when for whatever reason we are not quite ready to be in that new phase,” said Weber. “Sometimes we want to stay where we are, and we don’t want to transition. Sometimes we want to, but there’s a challenge relevant to the current task that is hard to let go.”
Weber’s study concluded that:
“If the upcoming state is one that is less appealing to you in some way, it will be harder to make that transition and it will result in more negative emotions soon after making the transition;
Separation is much harder for long-distance relationships;
People naturally vary in how comfortable and natural they feel being by themselves or being with their partners, which affects the experience of ‘jet lag.’ For example, a naturally independent person may experience resistance moving into a reunion phase.
Your degree of relationship satisfaction also contributes to the degree of relationship ‘jet lag’ you experience.”
Ways in which someone can improve their jet lag experience, according to the study includes,
“Become aware of what makes you ‘lag.’ It’s important to know yourself and when transitions are easier and harder for you. Once you have that awareness, if you know that an upcoming transition might be hard for you, it may be helpful to intentionally think and act in ways that will make the transition easier.
Include a ‘jet lag’ period into one’s schedule, too.
“We can also use calendar reminders and alerts to remind us to start thinking about or planning for the upcoming phase so that we are prepared for when it happens,” Weber said.
For an upcoming anniversary, for example, give one’s partner a memento just to show they’re being thought of. It’s the simple things that go a long way.
When one has a solid relationship, no matter the small ups and downs, it has an incredible impact on mental health. This means that relationships are worth nurturing so everyone can benefit from the mental state that comes from being loved.