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Is Stress Killing Your Relationship?

Find ways to manage stress before it does major relationship damage.

Are you overwhelmed with deadlines at work, kids in school, the weekly to-do list, health concerns, drama on social media? Is stress taking a toll on your relationship? Do you find yourself taking out your stress on your significant other? If so, you’re not alone. 

Stress, handled wrongly, hurts relationships. It’s a reality. Often it’s the small stressors that build up and do damage. 

We all face daily stresses. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use a magic wand and remove all the stress in our lives? The reality is we have to learn to manage stress, not let stress manage us.

Here’s how to tell if stress is impacting your relationship:

Stressed out people are more withdrawn. 

When you’re stressed, you may pull away from those you love or be less affectionate. Maybe you’re working longer hours, spending more time alone, or camping out in front of the TV as a way of escaping all you have to deal with. Isolating yourself can damage your relationship.

Stressed out people see the worst in others. 

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to allow the small things to overwhelm us. A minor thing your spouse does, like not picking up their shoes, suddenly becomes a sign of disrespect and a lack of appreciation. Maybe they just forgot their shoes. But stress is blurring your vision and you see them doing it out of spite.

Stress leads to exhaustion. 

Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Whether the tension stems from work, kids, or our calendars, it bleeds over into all aspects of our lives. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mentally exhausted, you just want to sleep? Stress takes a toll on our bodies. This can leave our spouse (and others) feeling neglected.

Stress makes us irritable. 

Who wants to be around grumpy people? The longer the stress lasts, the crankier you get. This can lead to arguments and hurtful words. 

[How Not to Blow Up On Your Kids When You’re Stressed Out: The Timeout is a great read if you’ve got kids]

Stress causes us to put other things in front of our relationship. 

Technology is a fabulous tool but can also be a source of stress. Endless work texts or emails can interrupt time with your spouse. When we are stressed due to work or other obligations, it becomes easy to prioritize those above our relationship.

So, if you find yourself resonating with these common signs of stress…

Make a plan…when you aren’t stressed out. 

If both of you are in a place of little stress, plan how you will deal with stress once it increases. Help to identify each other’s stressors and stress patterns. Look for ways to reduce stressors before they take over.

Reduce your stress. 

You can’t help your spouse if you can’t help yourself, so identify what reduces your stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I like to go for a run. It’s time to decompress, soak in the fresh air, and clear my mind. Maybe it’s exercise, music, or getting in nature. Communicate to your spouse what you need to do to reduce stress. Make sure you both have time to de-stress and refresh. (Read How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship)

Prioritize your relationship. 

You’re a team! Commit to each other and to ensuring that stress will not take over your relationship. Dr. Michael Mantell, an Advanced Behavior Coach, puts it this way: “Help each other remember you cannot control the uncontrollable, to always look for victory not defeat, to agree to set aside time to talk and be each other’s defense attorney, not prosecutor.”

Ask for help. 

Your partner can’t provide for all your needs. Putting that expectation on each other isn’t healthy. Sometimes we need help, whether that’s a trusted friend or a therapist. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Protecting your relationship must be the priority. 

Stress is a reality. You can’t make it go away, but you can manage stress so that it doesn’t kill your relationship. What will you do today to reduce stress in your life?

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Help Your Spouse When They’re Burned Out

Move forward and grow closer through this challenge, one step at a time.

You may have noticed that your once ‘Energizer bunny’ spouse has no energy to do anything. Or they share they don’t feel right but can’t give any specific reasons. It seems like all at once, it ALL became too much. They have no motivation to work or deal with personal issues. They feel exhausted after sleeping all night. And they begin to question their capability to complete tasks from work or at home. Your loved one may be experiencing burnout. 

Yes, burnout is a real thing. According to WHO, burnout is caused by “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” It affects people in all areas of their lives physically, emotionally, and mentally. 

If you believe your spouse is dealing with burnout, these strategies can help you as you help them.

Listen To Them

This may be one of the hardest things to do, especially if you think your spouse can accomplish anything they set their mind to do. Now, they’re questioning everything. You have to listen to them ask questions like:

  • Am I a good spouse? 
  • Is my child getting what they need?
  • Are my kids falling behind academically because I’m not a teacher?
  • Am I a good parent? 
  • Is this my fault?
  • Am I a good worker?
  • Can I do my job now that it’s different from what I was hired to do?
  • Am I giving time and effort to my relationship?
  • Why is this so hard for me right now?

It’s not the time to try to fix it for them or ask questions. Instead, this is the time to let them dump it all out and try your best to understand. (4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples may be useful!)

Help Out As Much As You Can

Taking things off your spouse’s plate may help relieve the stress. It could be as simple as dusting around the house or taking on homework time from virtual school. If you don’t know where to start, simply ask, “How can I make what you do easier?”

Rely On Your Friends and Family (Use Your Village) 

Remember—you don’t have to do everything on your own! Encouraging your spouse to spend some time with friends, family, or alone can lighten the load. Not only should your spouse spend time with friends and family—so should you. You don’t have to be the sole person to assist your spouse. In fact, if you aren’t careful about taking on too much, it may lead to your own sense of burnout. 

Take Care of Yourself

While being supportive and non-judgmental of your spouse, it’s vital to take care of yourself. Try to get rest, good food and exercise, too. Find things that help you recharge your own battery. 

Encourage Your Mate to Find or Rediscover Hobbies

Being creative can help their brain get out of the fight/flight cycle (more on that here). Be intentional about searching for new hobbies or finding enjoyment again in something they used to do. It could be anything from crocheting, hiking, or woodworking. You know better than anyone what they enjoy. (Read Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests)

Reevaluate Your Family’s Schedule

Take some time to sit down and have a conversation about your family’s schedule. List everything for everyone, including work schedules, in-person or virtual school schedules, and other things to consider, like: 

  • When the kids need more hands-on help 
  • Mealtime
  • When the kids work independently
  • When you need to focus on your job (if working from home)
  • Family time

Looking at the schedule with clear eyes can help you see patterns. From these patterns, you can make conscious decisions together about how to spend your time and energy.

People are experiencing burnout at all-time high levels, and it’s a tough thing to deal with. Watching your spouse struggle with burnout can make you feel helpless, but you can get through this together. It’s an opportunity to grow closer and remind yourselves that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Make time for the things that fill you up. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***