Stress is never easy to deal with. If it was, then it wouldn’t be that stressful! But when you’ve had a bad day at work, or there’s a change going on in your life, or you’re just depressed, there are few things more difficult than dealing with your partner’s stress too.
Even when you aren’t stressed, just hearing about your partner’s stress can stress you out. In that way, stress is ‘contagious’.
Stress can be so pervasive in your life, an everyday thing, that you can fail to see the effects it has on you and your relationship. Not wanting or having the energy to deal with your own stress, much less your partner’s, can lead to ignoring stress and its symptoms.
Even if couples recognize stress, they don’t always know what to do about it.
But, considering the effect it can have on the health of your relationship, and your physical and mental health, it would help to learn how to help each other manage stress. If being together can add to stress levels, then working together to reduce them makes sense.
How Couples Can Help Each Other Deal with Stress
Here are just a few ways that relationship partners can learn to identify stress and give each other the support to manage it.
- When You Help Your Partner You Help Yourself – Stress is often made worse when you ruminate on it. Constantly thinking about “why did my boss say that to me?” or simply “I’m so stressed right now!” can make the symptoms worse.
So when your partner has a bad day too, it can push your stress levels higher.
But, if you take a moment to focus on your partner’s problems, it can relieve the rumination on your own. In other words, instead of adding to your stress, listening to your partner and helping him or her work things out can help you manage your own stress.
- Learn to Spot the Signs of Stress in You and Your Partner – As we said, stress can be so common in your life that it’s often difficult to identify it. Disagreements can be more based on stress than actual problems.
If you or your partner are uncharacteristically irritated, detached or angry, it could be due to stress, even if the feeling of stress hasn’t been voiced.
- Prepare Yourself – While it can be helpful for both of you to talk about your stress, if yours is at a high level, it can be counterproductive to jump into a conversation. Try to be mindful of your own stress levels and do everything you can to temporarily set them aside before approaching your partner.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask – When your partner shows potential signs of stress, like anger, you might just want to stay away. But, if you sense that stress may be behind the symptom, asking in an understanding way can be the first step in helping your partner.
- Listen – Sometimes when you ask your partner about a tough day, it’s very tempting to talk about your own stress response. It can take some practice, but letting your partner simply express the causes of his or her stress can be one of the best ways to help them relieve it.
- Show Empathy – Another tempting response is to offer an immediate solution. “Maybe you should have told your boss why you did that.” But offering a potential solution for the cause of the stress doesn’t necessarily relieve the stress your partner feels right now. Instead, try to show your understanding of why your partner feels stressed. Try to be comforting before trying to solve the problem.
- Ask How You Can Help – It can be difficult for your partner to express how and why she or he feels they way they do. Sometimes they simply need to work things out for themselves. In addition to your listening and empathy, all they might need from you at the moment is to make dinner, or give a nice shoulder massage.
- Do Something Together – Most often, there is little or nothing either of you can do at the moment about the causes of your stress. If the boss was nasty today, that can’t be undone right now. And, as we mentioned, ruminating on it will most likely make it worse. But if you find a way to move on by doing something together, like making a special dinner or going out for a bike ride, it can take your focus and energy away from the stress and put it back into what’s most important: your relationship.
Stress can affect your relationship in unseen ways. Doing your best to help each other manage it can not only relieve your stress, but strengthen your relationship too. To learn more, please contact BRCook and Associates for a no-obligation discussion.
I am a certified solution-focused therapist, and I integrate a number of theoretical orientations into my practice including cognitive-behavioural, humanistic, psychodynamic, reality focused therapy. In essence, my experience and style have been dynamically moved into an eclectic approach that best seems to fit the client and their personal needs.