Natural disasters can actually strengthen married couples’ bonds.

Natural disasters can actually strengthen married couples' bonds.


When newlyweds went through a natural disaster together, they were more likely to be happy with their relationship, according to new long-term research that looked at Hurricane Harvey. In some ways I didn’t really have a choice about whether to be interested in the effects of the hurricane because it happened in the middle of our longitudinal study, so there was no ignoring it” said the author of the study.


Couples who were less satisfied with their relationships before the hurricane had the most benefit from this.


During Hurricane Harvey, which hit the Texas coast in August 2017, a lot of people lost their homes. In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, however, the couples saw a short-term rise in their relationship satisfaction. “An important takeaway is that our life partners are incredibly important, but it’s easy to get bogged down in little annoyances while we are going through the everyday grind of life. In this study we saw that a major disruptive and traumatic event can help bring attention back to our partners and their importance to us,” said Williamson. The researchers found that the couples’ relationship satisfaction was back to where it was before the hurricane within a year.


In their study, the researchers said that after a hurricane, people’s levels of happiness rose for a short time, but then that this was followed by “hedonic adaption,” which means that they returned to their previous level of relationship satisfaction. There was a surprise: The researchers didn’t find that the level of hurricane exposure, chronic stress, or social support was a good predictor of how happy people were with their relationships after the hurricane. “We weren’t able to examine the specific reason for the increase, and subsequent decline, in relationship satisfaction. Future research is needed to address this question by examining potential mediators” Williamson said.