Having a few close friends and family members to turn to can help reduce the stress associated with marital conflicts, a study suggests.
"We found that having a satisfying social network buffers spouses from the harmful physiological effects of everyday marital conflicts," said Lisa Neff, from University of Texas at Austin in the US.
"Maintaining a few good friends is important to weathering the storms of your marriage," Neff added.
Social networks may help provide protection against health problems brought about by ordinary tension between spouses.
Researchers looked at the link between spouses' cortisol levels, which are an indicator of physiological stress, and marital conflicts occurring in the home.
They looked at 105 newlywed couples who kept daily records of marital conflict in their home environment and completed questionnaires about the number, quality and characteristics of their connections with friends and family.
The participants collected morning and evening saliva samples for cortisol testing every day for six days.
Cortisol levels over the course of the day are a measure of the stress response.
Researchers found that spouses who reported being more satisfied with the availability of friends and family, whom they knew they could connect with during times of marital conflict, experienced conflict as less physiologically stressful.
They found that people who reported having even a few close friends or family members to talk to outside of their marriage experienced lower levels of stress when marital conflicts arose.
"Even everyday conflict takes a toll on people physiologically. But we found that the association between marital conflict and cortisol responses completely disappears when people are happy and satisfied with their available social network," said Neff.
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.