Stress in relationships

Is stress affecting your relationship? 6 ways to overcome it

by Eharmony Editorial Team - May 30, 2018

Is stress affecting your relationship? Vivian Kelly shares six ways you can overcome it and stay together

Pivotal life events and stressful situations can truly test your relationship. It’s inevitable, but what matters most is how you handle it.

From work and finances to family and health, stress can come in many forms. But there are ways to overcome it. Here are six ways to cope with stress while continuing to build a strong, lasting relationship.

1. Don’t bottle your feelings in

Communication is key to long lasting love. A study conducted by Trinity University, Paradoxical Effects of Thoughts Suppression, found that people who suppress their feelings are likely to ruminate and feel overwhelmed by emotions. This, in turn, causes their emotions to build up and lose their cool. The best way to deal with a negative emotion is to recognise the feeling and speak to your partner openly about how you feel. Our partners are there to help support us, so whether it’s a tough deadline you’re trying to meet at work, or something that your partner did that hurt you, it’s best to acknowledge your feelings first and own them. In other words, express yourself but avoid the blame game (no-one ever wins.)

2. Be respectful and empathetic with your partner’s feelings

When your partner is stressed, it’s important to try to understand why they’re feeling this way. The last thing you want to is get defensive. Focus on the tone of your communication. Tone of voice can be immediately identified as positive or negative and it sets the tone in every conversation. As Dr. Albert Mehrabian of the University of California found, communication is 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. Be mindful when your partner is telling you how they feel. Listen intently and respond with compassion.

3. Communicate with your partner and ask how they’re feeling

Look out for signs of stress in your partner. Stress is often not communicated early enough. This can lead to an outpouring of negative emotions and further stress for both parties. Things like sleeping habits, diet, mood, and energy levels are all vital indicators of how your partner is feeling. Connect with your partner often by having a no-phone conversation about each other’s day. 15 minutes spent catching up at the end of the day is all you need to deepen your bond and instantly improve your relationship. If you’re unsure how to support your partner, ask, ‘What can I do to make you feel better?’ Simple tasks, such as cooking dinner or making them a nice cup of tea, can make all the difference.

4. Take time to show affection

Showing affection can make your partner feel loved, cared for and special, especially when they need it the most. When work and life demands are burning them out, give them a hug. Hugging, holding hands, and touching increase our levels of oxytocin – also known as the ‘cuddle hormone’ – which has a calming effect, counteracting the stress hormone, cortisol. A warm embrace can really provide the relief they’re looking for and brighten up their day.

5. Give yourself some time out to relax

With our hectic work schedules, relaxing is often overlooked. As a society, we don’t do enough of it, and when we do take time out, we often feel guilty about having done nothing. Having ‘me time’ is a great way to reduce stress and it can have a positive impact on your relationship. ‘Me time’ means doing anything that makes you feel calm and happy. Things like practising meditation, having a bath, listening to your favourite music, reading a new book or going for a walk are all effective relaxation techniques to help you unwind and feel zen. Start with 20 minutes each day and try to build on that every week.  

6. Set yourself a date night each week

Nurturing your relationships is a fundamental way to deepen your connection and manage stress. Fostering a deep connection helps you get to know each other better and, as a result, boosts happiness levels in your relationship. Aim to schedule one date a week and do something relaxing and fun together. A morning cycle ride, dinner at a local restaurant, or a fun physical activity are all great ways to spend quality time with your partner and reignite that spark.