Don't Let Stress Sink Your Relationship

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re stressing out your partner? This is not unusual. If you are in an exclusive relationship and you are struggling with stress, it’s likely that your partner is struggling alongside you because stress affects the way you behave, especially if you try to keep it under wraps. Here’s how this can happen:

Stress can make you less social. When you’re overwhelmed, do you feel like going out? Doubtful. Your partner may want to hit the town, but you’re exhausted. He or she wants a weekend getaway, but you can’t bear the hassle of making plans. Granted, relaxation and downtime are important, but too much of it can be a drag on your relationship.

It can drive you to drink. For many people, socializing involves drinking and there’s nothing wrong with that — if you have a handle it. When times are tough, you’re more likely to overdo it on the alcohol. And if you do, you may feel the urge to bring up and hash out your issues while drunk, which is exactly the worst possible time to do so. Or, if you have a flair for the dramatic, you might opt for less direct, more extravagant ways to express your displeasure. This creates fireworks — the dramatic kind, not the romantic kind.

It can make you distant. You may deal with stress by bottling it upon in an attempt to “spare” your partner from your problems or because you don’t want to appear weak. Maybe you flat out deny that anything is bothering you or you keep interactions safely on the surface. Though well intentioned, this can leave your partner feeling shut out, wondering why you emotionally disappeared.

It can make you controlling. At the other end of the spectrum, you might manage your anxiety by trying to subtly control your partner. Repeatedly asking for reassurance, checking in on or criticizing him or her are all strategies that backfire.

So, stress can undermine your relationship. But it doesn’t have to do so. It can actually lead you two to grow closer... if you communicate

Use communication to manage stress.

When life gets rough, talk to your partner about what’s going on with you in a frank and direct way. This may sound obvious, but to plenty of people, it’s not.

There are a few reasons for sharing your stress with your partner. For one, it can help him or her help you. If you don’t trust him or her enough to help, then why are you two together at all? And if you do, why not tell share what’s happening? A huge benefit of a relationship is the mutual support you can provide for each other. But, that can only happen if you get comfortable asking for support and being specific about what you need. Your partner is probably not a therapist and is definitely not a mind reader — so, how else should could he or she know what to do?

Disclosing your anxieties also helps you learn how your stressed-out behavior affects other people. Our partners can usually read the subtleties of our behaviors better than anyone else (except maybe our dogs). If you’re open to it, you can learn a lot from your partner’s observations about how you are when you’re in a bad place. Sure, this can be hard to examine, but becoming a better person is not for the faint of heart.

Most importantly, letting your partner in brings the two of you closer by disclosing your trust in him or her. Vulnerability is crucial if you’re going to be with someone in a real, authentic way. Nobody is always on top of things and nobody’s always confident. If your relationship relies on you keeping up a facade, it’ll get knocked down in a thunderstorm. But, if the foundation is strong, it’ll withstand a hurricane.