From the current health crisis to the unstable job market, life is pretty overwhelming these days. In fact, CNBC reports that 55% of Americans are more stressed now than they were at the beginning of the year. With the multitude of issues surrounding us, it’s completely understandable to feel more frustrated than ever.
It goes without saying that stress can take a serious toll on your overall well-being, leaving you feeling exhausted or easily irritable. However, a sign of stress that often goes unnoticed is experiencing a strain in your relationship. Though stress is something everyone struggles with, if it continues unaddressed, your relationship could soon be on the rocks.
How Stress Affects Your Relationship
Stress doesn’t bring out the best in you. All of those heavy thoughts and feelings you experience can manifest in the way we speak and act to those around us.
When you’re under a state of stress, you’ll project those negative emotions out on your partner by criticizing their every move or picking an argument with them. Grant Hilary Brenner, a clinical professor at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, notes that people project because they’re in denial of their current situation. This defense mechanism, in turn, can cause emotional pain for your partner. The harsh words can make them feel detached from the relationship or even doubt their own worth.
Conversely, stress can actually make you emotionally withdrawn from your partner. As you struggle with your emotions, you begin to shut them out of your life — from not sharing your feelings to ignoring your partner’s needs. Not to mention, stress can kill the romance in your relationship. With the lack of communication caused by your stress, having a meaningful and exciting relationship will be very difficult to achieve together. Overall, stress can break the foundation of trust and love you’ve built together.
Saving Your Relationship from Stress
When you’re stressed out, your mind becomes so overwhelmed that you forget to take care of yourself. And ultimately, you start to neglect the thoughts and feelings of the person right next to you. Thankfully, stress is only a temporary feeling that can be managed.
Case in point: As most people today are working from home for the first time, and with the many complications that living in a pandemic brings about, it’s hard to find time for all your tasks and look after yourself. When trying to set a good work-life balance, Suzanne Rohan Jones, a career counselor and instructor at Maryville University’s psychology program, explains that it’s important to remember that it’s going to look different from person to person. Set realistic expectations of what you can and can’t do, and communicate this with your partner. This, she says, will set the stage for more acceptance and less anxiety. Understanding what you’re both going through will teach you to be more empathetic towards each other’s needs, and thus strengthen your relationship’s foundation.
Another way you can prevent stress from straining your relationship is by learning to see and acknowledge the good in each other. We previously shared that highlighting your partner’s strengths — like complimenting their outfits or appreciating their hard work — can help them feel better about themselves. What’s more, it tells them that you’ll always be on their side. Looking for the good in your partner and your relationship helps you deal with stress, too. It not only puts things in perspective, but it also reminds you of what matters in life.
Last but not least, it’s important to identify your stressors. Don’t forget that it takes two to tango in your relationship. It’s crucial to identify why you’re disconnected from the world (and your relationship, of course). To this end, you’ll need to be more aware of what you’re feeling throughout the day. Take note of what gets your mind and body worked up. From there, you’ll be able to figure the best ways to deal with those stressors.