Long working hours are affecting relationships, says Prof. Suzanne Piscopo. Photo: Matthew MirabelliLong working hours are affecting relationships, says Prof. Suzanne Piscopo. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Longer socialising hours with colleagues and increasing financial burdens are threatening today’s relationships, Maltese couples have told researchers in a nationwide study.

“The study participants lamented today’s fragility of relationships, with some interviewees noting that one or both of the individuals in the couple are frequently spending more time with their colleagues than with their partner,” said Prof. Suzanne Piscopo, one of the researchers of Sustaining Relationships: The Ex-pectations and Lived Experiences of Maltese Couples, whose findings will be published on Thursday.

“This could also be the result of long working hours, or working hours augmented by after-work socialising.

“Meanwhile, something that was highlighted across the board is that when things go wrong, it nowadays seems easier for people to give up and go their separate ways.”

The qualitative research, by the National Centre for Family Research within the President’s Foundation for the Wellbeing of Society, is a follow-up to a quantitative study published last year.

Called Sustaining Relationships – Couples and Singles in a Changing Society, the previous study was carried out among 2,500 people.

Most respondents had reported satisfaction with their relationships, and this was particularly true for married respondents and those with adequate income.

The research had shown that relationship satisfaction does not depend on gender, age or nationality.

Around three quarters of the participants had said they were satisfied with life, with satisfaction peaking between the ages of 66 and 80.

Satisfaction was higher among married or single people, as opposed to separated, widowed or divorced.

Among singles, women in their late 20s or 70s expressed highest life satisfaction.

Some 23 people took part in the follow-up study, which will be launched on Thursday, highlighting the contextual forces impacting current local couple relationship, while also looking into what couples value in their long-term relationship.

Shared decision-making, face-to face communication and support in achieving goals emerged as some ingredients of keeping the relationship sustainable.

Two clear challenges to long-lasting relationships according to the study are lack of time with the partner and income inadequacy.

Income inadequacy could lead to longer working hours or multiple jobs, Prof. Piscopo said, noting that people were increasingly in-fluenced by lifestyle norms.

This did not boil down to just materialism, where wants be-come needs, but also revolved around what was expected of parents, such as afterschool activities.

She also referred to coping mechanisms that some of the participants highlighted, such as both parents accompany children to their after-school activities and having a chat over a coffee until it was time to pick them up again.

More information on pfws.opr@gov.mt or 2148 4662.

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