Relationship stress can come from each individual’s need to address personal concerns or from issues within the relationship, such as household finances, a lack of communication or diminished excitement. Stress doesn’t have to become so bad it causes serious relationship strife or -- even worse -- physical or psychological health challenges. Finding healthy ways to cope with relationship stress can revitalize the partnership and improve overall health.
Identify Stress Symptoms
When you are able to identify stress symptoms you will be better equipped to handle them when they arise. Do you have an overexcited stress response -- as described by Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson in the HelpGuide.org article titled "Stress Relief in the Moment: Using Your Senses to Quickly Change Your Response to Stress" -- and become snappish and short-tempered toward your partner when you are stressed? Does your partner have an underactive stress response and become moody and withdrawn? In her Psych Central articled titled "How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship," quoting author and licensed clinical social worker Judy Ford, Margarita Tartakovsky reports that “Couples often become so accustomed to unchecked stress that they barely recognize and often overlook the destructive ramifications.” Tartakovsky also notes that dependence on mild-altering substances, such as alcohol and illicit drugs, can also indicate increased stress levels. Learn to identify the signs of stress in you and your partner so that you can address the problem.
Individual and Couple Self-Care
In order for you to address the stress within your relationship, you must first be able to manage your own stress levels. Stress has both positive and negative effects, and the negative effects of stress -- also known as strain -- often lead to depression, irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating, according to clinical psychologist Larry Nadig in his article titled "Stress: A Health and Relationship Killer." Learning to indulge in routine self-care can help to minimize stress symptoms. You and your partner should routinely practice healthy eating habits, engage in physical activity and relaxation techniques, such as yoga and mindfulness, to manage stress. As a couple, you can also take walks together or engage in other forms of exercise. Taking baths together, giving each other massages and nurturing sexual intimacy in your relationship are also ways to de-stress as a couple.
An inability to effectively communicate with your partner -- during typical conversational exchanges or during conflicts -- can increase stress within your relationship. Feeling that your partner doesn’t listen to you can be annoying, and constantly nagging about things can cause your partner to be stressed as well. Before attempting to iron out a conflict, ensure that you and your partner calm yourselves using deep-breathing techniques. Practice active listening, which includes not interrupting your partner, maintaining eye contact and using nonverbal cues to show you are listening. When ironing out conflicts, seek compromises and win-win solutions instead of approaching the situation from the stance of "It’s my way or the highway.”
Help Your Partner
If you notice that your significant other is a little overwhelmed, offer to be of assistance. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help, recommends Tartakovsky. Offer to take your partner's car to the car wash or to call a lawn care service to help with lawn maintenance for the month while your partner catches up on work. Take the kids out of the home for several hours to allow your significant other some time to rest peacefully. When your partner’s stress levels are diminished, so is the stress in the relationship, so seek to help out as best you can for the overall benefit of the relationship.