What Effects Can Stress Have on a Marriage?

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Did you know that stress can have negative effects on a marriage even when it comes from sources outside of the relationship? While some stress will originate from interactions between you and your spouse, other types of stress, including work-related, peer-related and child-related, can also impact your partnership. Regardless of where stress comes from, it can interfere with the progression, longevity and quality of your relationship. Understanding the effects of these factors on your marriage can help you and your spouse limit their influence.

Satisfaction and Quality

The depression and anxiety that may accompany stress can lead to decreased marital satisfaction and negative interactions. Men, for example, report less satisfaction with their marriage as work- and parenting-related stress increases. Marriage quality can also be affected by external sources of stress. Women are more likely to transfer negativity toward stressors to their spouses and subsequently report more problems with their marriages, say Lisa Neff and Benjamin Karney in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin."


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Feelings of anger, frustration and irritability are common side effects of stress in adults. If not coped with properly, these feelings could lead to conflict between you and your spouse. Economic sources of stress, such as financial hardship and reliance on family assistance, were found to be related to marital conflict in a study reported by Jessica Halliday Hardie and Amy Lucas in "Journal of Marriage and the Family."

Communication and Intimacy

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The quality of communication can also be influenced by stress. Effective skills, such as active listening and showing interest, may be replaced by criticism and withdrawal when you or your spouse is under a lot of stress. This can lead to conflict, issues with trust or the development of intimacy problems. However, learning to communicate with your spouse during stressful times and adopting personal coping skills can increase marital satisfaction.


Factors associated with chronic stress, such as increased conflict, lack of positive interactions and a decrease in time spent together, can influence the decision to divorce. While divorce is not directly caused by stress, it is influenced by the consequences. Stress can also affect physical and psychological well-being, which tends to put strain on a marriage. It is important for you to recognize the effects that external stressors are having on your marriage in order to learn effective ways to deal with them.