How To Not Let Stress Affect Your Relationships

Stressed Out Couple

By Shannon Sweeney

Stress is something we all experience. From juggling work, personal life, and other obligations, stress triggers are everywhere — if someone says they don’t have any stress in their life, chances are, they’re lying. Actually, they’re 100 percent lying.

Everyone has stress. Some of it is major, like moving, starting a new job, a health concern, and more. Others are more minor, like a busy week at work or trying to find a last-minute sitter for your kids. No matter if you have major or minor stress in your life, it can all add up — and there’s no doubt that it affects the people around us.

All people tend to let “stress spillover” affect their relationships with a significant other. It’s natural to express your emotions when you’re stressed, but it shouldn’t be directed at the person closest to you. Stress can affect even the healthiest relationships by creating unnecessary problems, straining communication, lack of sexual intimacy with a partner, and more.

A study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that followed 80 couples over four years found that those who experienced more stress outside of their relationship said they felt less comfortable and close with their partners, making them feel unsure about their relationship.

The bottom line is that stress can bring out the worst in us. And even though stress is unavoidable, there are things we can all do to stop it from affecting our closest relationships. Here are some things you can try to prevent stress spillover.

Create a plan with your partner

Communication is key in any relationship, and is especially important when one or both of you is experiencing a lot of stress. Talk to your partner about what plan you’ll have to address any stress or future tension — how will you express any feelings of concern? What’s the best way to communicate with a partner when they’re stressed? Everyone reacts differently — some people want space, whereas others want to speak freely. Discuss what’s best for you and your relationship so you know what to do the next time you feel tense, preventing a potential blow-up fight (and more stress!)

Opening the lines of communication can do wonders for your relationship. Many people tend to bottle things up inside when they’re feeling stressed, meaning you could not even know how your partner is truly feeling. By creating an open space for dialogue or another method of communication, you and your partner will feel more open to discussing what’s stressing you or them out. This will make you or them feel more supported the next time you’re stressed out about something in particular, because you’ll already have a plan in place.

Identify your stressors

High levels of stress from outside factors no doubt come into play in a relationship. But if you can identify what’s specifically stressing you out, you will be able to better understand WHY you’re feeling stressed and just exactly what you can do to deal with it. When you step back and take an outside look at your stress, you can identify patterns, triggers, and possible solutions.

One way to help you identify your stressors is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. Work through this scale with your partner and identify the stress weighing on each of you — if one of you is stressed, chances are, both of you are. This scale gives you a chance to hone in on what exactly is weighing on you, and you can talk out possible triggers or solutions. Knowing what is stressing each of you out will help you develop more of an understanding of yourself and your partner.

Find activities to do together that relieve stress...

From taking a walk after work together or going out for dinner, find an activity that will take your mind off things to do with your partner. Just doing things together can take a load of stress off your shoulders, and will help you relax. I recommend doing a physical activity together, like walking or bike riding, because exercise endorphins will naturally help you relieve stress, too.

But also understand the importance of “me time”

With hectic work schedules and even more hectic post-work schedules, it’s nearly impossible to find even just 30 minutes in our days completely dedicated to ourselves. And when we do, we feel guilty about the time we’re taking to relax instead of getting something done. News flash: It is extremely important to your mental and physical health to have relaxation time to yourself. Having “me time” will help you calm down and be happy, and will help you feel better in your relationship too. The best part about “me time” is that it’s completely dedicated to something you like to enjoy that makes you happy. This could be taking a bath, taking a nap, meditating, reading a book, or going for a walk. I won’t tell you what to do — do whatever makes you feel happy!

Every relationship is different, so each couple will have a different solution to “spillover stress.” These tips, thought, can help you minimize it in multiple parts of your relationship, no matter if it’s work-related stress or outside stressors. The key is starting with communication!