Every relationship will experience some ups and downs. These events can actually bring couples closer though, when relationship stress is ongoing or severe, it can be detrimental.
Stress can cause us to become withdrawn, preoccupied, and less affectionate. It can tempt us to have a bad attitude. We may take things out on those closest to us. For those in stable relationships, stress can cause us to see problems that don’t exist. When we are in relationships that are already rocky, it can lead to a breakdown.
Relationship stress doesn’t have to be disastrous. On the contrary, it can be beneficial when we learn how to manage it properly. With a better understanding and the proper tools, stress can be an opportunity to open up and work as a team. Learn what causes this tension, warning signs to watch for, and how to tackle it together.
Causes of relationship stress
External and internal factors can be the source of stress in a relationship. For example, according to a survey by the Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 73 % of Americans say financial issues are a source of tension in their relationship.
Work pressure is another primary trigger of relationship stress. Most of us spend a great deal of time and energy at our workplace. Understandably, this sometimes spills over into our family connections.
Our personal issues can also cause relationship stress. For instance, previous experiences in past relationships or low self-esteem may prompt it. In addition, a lack of healthy communication or unmet needs can bring tension. Things outside of our control, such as an illness in the family, can be causes of tension as well.
Signs of relationship stress
Several indicators could suggest stress in a relationship. Some couples might notice only one or two signs. Others could exhibit many of them.
We may find ourselves not looking forward to or even dreading time together. Instead, we might seek distractions from our relationship in jobs, social media, or substances. We might also turn our attention to other people as a distraction.
We might overanalyze interactions, scrutinizing little things a partner says or does. Another sign can be wondering whether you matter to your partner. This often goes along with doubting their intentions and feelings.
Difficulty resolving conflicts can be a marker of relationship stress. Ongoing disputes create tension that can negatively affect the well-being of a couple. A consistent inability to compromise and being easily irritated may also point to enduring stress.
Managing Relationship Stress
As mentioned previously, stress can benefit a relationship if we learn to manage it properly. If you are experiencing damaging tension, taking action is crucial. Getting a handle on stress can save your relationship. It can also improve it. Here are some things we can do to foster the feeling of being partners who deal with stressful circumstances together.
- Work on communication. Check in with each other frequently. Actively listen to what your partner has to say before offering advice or solutions. Use meaningful eye contact and nonverbal cues to show you hear. We can also use appropriate touch to signify that we hear and care.
- Ask for and offer help. For some of us, requesting a helping hand is one of the most challenging things to do. We might fear rejection. We may feel reluctant to burden someone with our needs. We might want to avoid seeming weak. But we can reframe asking for help as creating opportunities to operate as a team. It’s also important to remember that your partner likely wants to meet your needs. By asking for help, you are giving them a chance to do so.
- Strengthen your identity as an individual. A partner can’t meet all of our needs. We should take the time to get to know ourselves. We can gain a better understanding of what makes us feel content, happy, and peaceful. Then, by taking time for self-care and engaging in practices that bring us joy, we can bring less stress into our relationships.
- Practice mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness can make it easier to navigate our range of emotions. This makes us less likely to bring undue stress into our relationships. We can learn to scan our bodies for signs of stress. We can sit with the discomfort for a while. Then, we can focus on breathing, meditate or use other tools to help us learn to live in the moment.
- Talk to a therapist. You may notice a sudden season of relationship stress. On the other hand, the tension may have been building for some time. Either way, a caring counselor can guide us to calmer waters. A professional therapist can offer support, strategies, and suggestions to diminish stress and strengthen your bond in the future.