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How does stress effect relationships?

Woman looking stressed at her laptop


Life has its ups and downs which can heighten emotions, whether positively or negatively. These feelings of intense emotion will no doubt, touch on your closest relationships, especially with your partner.

In this article, we explore the causes of stress, its disadvantages, advantages and why it is essential to manage it correctly in the best interests of your relationship.

Where can stress come from?

Stress can come from multiple parts of life. It can originate from times of financial hardship, an unhealthy work environment, family difficulties and changes, or physical or mental illnesses. The list is endless.

Not only can outside factors produce feelings of stress, but conflicts within the relationship can also cause tensions and anxiety amongst a couple. For example, unresolved issues from previous relationships, general arguments, feelings of neglect, or not being correctly understood.

There are so many causes of stress. To maintain a healthy relationship,  it is recommended to pinpoint where the uncertainty stems from and work through it together.

The effects of stress is dependent on how it is managed

How stress affects the relationship will vary on how the pressure is handled. Like most parts of a relationship, communication and listening are key to managing the surrounding negativity correctly.

In theory, couples who come together to combat stress do it more efficiently as it creates a ‘team’ like feeling within the relationship.

Disadvantages of stress

As you can imagine, there are many disadvantages of stress in a relationship.

One of the familiar repercussions of stress in a relationship is its effect of making people feel like they cannot discuss their feelings. Consequently, both persons in the partnership can feel unsure of how to support(resolve?) the situation as they do not have a full overview of what is happening. This can cause strain on the relationship as it can push people away from each other instead of bringing them closer.

The cycle of stress

Another disadvantage is arguing. The infectious nature of stress itself can cause this. It is an emotion which tends to bring out pressure in the people effected, creating unnecessarily nasty and abrupt attributes.

As a result, some couples may feel they are in an endless cycle of negativity between one another. Instead of behaving rationally or responding to your partner’s outbursts reasonably, it may cause you to react harshly and out of character.

The accumulation of stress

External stresses caused by work, for example, tend to be a frequent contributor to repetitive, and high-intensity arguments.

Furthermore, if both of you have quite opposing personalities, especially when coping with stress, it can cause friction.

It is usually an accumulation of many smaller situations and unhelpful management techniques which can blow into large scale arguments while in a stressful environment.

Two people holding hands

Advantages of stress

Just because stress in and around a relationship is present doesn’t mean the relationship will falter.

By re-framing the stressful situation, it can draw out positives within the relationship. Of course, this will require both parties to dedicate the time to listen and discuss the cause of stress together.

Instead, stress can be the opening you need to become more honest with each other. By discussing the situation in-depth, it becomes a platform which demonstrates you can tackle other, and possibly more significant, stresses in the future.

As a result, it may bring you closer together and, in turn, create a more stable and more trusting relationship.

Exercises to try during times of stress

Here at Remainly, we are dedicated to helping couples to become the most aspiring version of themselves and therefore enhancing their relationship. Our tailored online couples therapy can offer solutions and practises with several different pathways offering solutions for a variety of common relationship issues.

If you would feel you would benefit from being mediated and supported by our lead psychologist Andreas, please contact us for more information about the online video guidance we offer.

In the meantime, below are some practises which may guide in times of stress.

External factors causing stress in the relationship

If your relationship is suffering as a result of stress, looking at the external framework of your life together may help to decipher how it may be negatively impacting your relationship if not managed well.

A notepad and pen next to a green plot plant

Analysing behaviour in the relationship

Analysing your pattern of arguing and learning about each other’s background and previous interactions with stress as a child can also help you to realise why you react in the way you do and how you could change that.

Create a list of external factors

Start by creating a list of external factors, in no particular order or priority. Think about every possible aspect that surrounds your relationship.

Put the pieces together

Next, review the list of factors and try and put them together to work out what makes you, you in your current environment today.

Then reflect on how you both argue and how these factors may affect those arguments. It may be revealing to see how outside factors contribute to your disagreements without you fully realising!

Add where necessary

As you look over your brainstorm, add anything more as you think about it. Ideally, you want to create the most precise and most detailed illustration of you, as an individual and your role in the relationship.

Be as creative as necessary when creating this and use post-it notes if need be.

Be aware of the subjective truth

The subjective truth is the account of life as we know it, from our own perspective. This means it is a personal recount of information.

The objective truth cannot be accessed when you are looking at your relationship just between yourselves, as there isn’t a third eye of truth overviewing your relationship.

Therefore it is integral that you both consider each other’s subjective truth when completing this exercise as a way to prevent further, unnecessary arguments.

Footprints in the sand next to the shoreline

Help for low moments: Sharing happy memories

If you feel like stress on the relationship is taking its toll, perhaps it is time to sit and reflect on your time together.

Instead of allowing the negatives to take hold of the relationship, whether these be external or internal stresses, take a break.

Dedicate some time to? looking at the happier memories you have shared.

Dig out some photos and look over your calendar for five past events that you remember with fondness.

Note down the memories

Put your reflections into writing! Take the time to reflect on the time you shared.

Grab something to jot down your five memories separately.

Think about:

  • Why were they so happy?
  • What were the external factors?
  • What positive emotions did you feel?
  • Specific things which you remember saying or hearing.

Share the happy memories

Next, take in turns to talk about the memories and share your thoughts on them.

Think about the values

Once you have reminisced, decide between you what values were represented in them.

Finally, decide if you would like these values to continue in your relationship for the future and work together to come up with ways you could integrate them from now on.

Unfortunately, not all stress in life can be avoided. Hopefully, we have shown how stress can be turned into a positive in your relationship and bring you together as a couple. What exercises have helped strengthen your relationship during times of stress? Why not share with us on our social media channels?

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