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Stress Challenges Relationships

Stress narrows our focus of attention often to the exclusion of our partner. If one or both of you are stressed, anxious or completely preoccupied with worries about work or home, you are not able to give caring attention to each other. You may be physically present, but you are not mentally or emotionally present with your partner. Excess stress can make it difficult to focus on simple daily activities, let alone be passionately involved in lovemaking. Sometimes couples are unaware that it is the stress that is creating the feeling of distance between them, and they make things worse by reacting to feeling ignored or left out. They may end up blaming each other and pulling further apart.

Taking a step back can help us gain some perspective and recognize that it is difficult for anyone to feel close when stress levels are high. Recognizing that it is the stress, rather than our partner that is causing the distance in the relationship can help us be more understanding.

When you find yourself clashing with your partner or feeling particularly testy, stop and take an accounting of your stress level and your partner's stress level. What else is going on in your life that may be contributing to your unhappy feelings? Often relationships will struggle when one partner goes back to school or gets a new job or there are financial difficulties. Recognizing that the problem is the increased stress and not the two of you can help you weather the inevitable storms of life. You can learn to be supportive of each other, rather than reactive. When your partner takes something out on you because they are stressed, you will be less likely to take it personally, but will recognize it for what it is—the stress talking.

If your life is full of chronic stress, it may be worth examining your beliefs and attitudes. Do you believe that you deserve a happy relationship and that this is possible for you? Do you want to enjoy your relationship and your life? This may seem like a silly question, however, if you answered yes, then ask yourself, “What am I doing to make this happen?”

Find ways to slow down, step back, and take a time out from the stress in your life.