Can your job cause your divorce?

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The paper listed nurses, psychiatrists, aged carers, dancers, choreographers, massage therapists and bartenders as occupations with a high chance of a break up.

Auckland - People who live to work are less likely to stay married than those who work to live.

An overseas research paper correlating occupations with divorce rates has found people working in caring, high-stress and extroverted jobs with long or unpredictable hours are more likely to split from their partners than others.

The paper listed nurses, psychiatrists, aged carers, dancers, choreographers, massage therapists and bartenders as occupations with a high chance of a break up. Podiatrists, dentists, clergymen and optometrists were among roles with a low risk.

Latest Statistics New Zealand figures show the occupation with the most recorded divorces is sales assistants, followed by general clerks, personal care assistants, sales reps, truck drivers, chief executives and managing directors and commercial cleaners.

The occupations with the highest percentage of divorces were telecommunications network planners (half of all people in the profession divorced), followed by orthopaedic surgeons (a third), then police officers, transport conductors and truck driver's offsiders all with a quarter.

Psychologist Nathan Gaunt, who specialises in relationships, said it was hard to predict why particular professions ranked highly in divorce stats without knowing the background information of the relationships.

But he said people providing care and services for someone else were more likely to suffer compassion fatigue than others.

“What people don't realise is that compassion is a finite emotion, a finite resource. When your bucket of compassion is empty you don't have any more,” he said.

“With jobs that require you to give out compassion, emotion and empathy - people can run out.

“Then you don't have enough left for your relationship.”

He said business people, teachers, medical professionals, police officers and air traffic controllers worked in high-stress jobs that often led to divorce.

Clinical psychologist Nic Beets said medical professionals were probably the most at-risk for divorce. Flight crew and shift workers were also at the high end of the scale.

He said people who travelled a lot or worked long hours were physically unavailable to their partners and families, which could cause problems.

“The emotional pull of their work can also make them emotionally unavailable. From my perspective, these are the people that are over represented in our practice and who have a lot of structural problems. Any jobs that make people physically or emotionally unavailable are the ones that will make your relationships unstable.”

Beets said those starting their own business could also experience problems. “People starting a business and family at the same time - that's a real relationship killer.”

Gaunt said it was important for people to prioritise.

“Work is becoming more invasive in our lives. People can feel lonely, ignored, isolated because their partner is working too hard or bringing stress home,” he said. “People should decide what aspects of the job can be handed back, handled or managed more effectively. Everything should be balanced.”

People also needed to decide whether they wanted to be defined by their jobs. “Is that the most important thing in your life? We are so fixated in knowing what people do for work and our identities are structured around that. But no one on the deathbed ever says, ‘I wish I had spent more time in the office'.”

The research was done by US industrial psychologist Dr Michael Aamodt. -

Herald on Sunday

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