Dealing with Relationship Stress

Relationships, especially with our significant others, can sometimes be a major source of stress in our lives. Personal stress caused by a relationship can be some of the hardest we deal with because our spouse or significant other is often who we turn to when we encounter stress in other parts of our lives. Relationship stress can be positive in the long run because overcoming it most often makes your relationship more stable.

Stress in relationships can come from many different places or can be a combination of minor things that add up. Finding what is causing the stress is the first, and most important, step to reducing relationship stress.

What are the major causes of stress in a relationship and how can you work on fixing them?

Money – The most common stressor for most relationships is financial. Financial stress is also one of the hardest to work through because unlike most other forms of stress, you can’t really adjust your income and expenses like you can your time. Financial stress is actually a form of “Uncertainty” stress because your long term, or possibly immediate, future become cloudy when you could be facing foreclosure, repossession, or eviction.

Conversations about your budget can often times get heated with each partner becoming defensive about their spending, regardless if they are correct or not. To help overcome this initial defensiveness, you can get an outside opinion from a financial advisor or planner, or try this trick. Each partner should create a budget for the household. Compare your budgets and see where the differences are. Your basic bills (like rent, utilities, and transportation) should be very close to each other with food as the only necessary expense that may differ between your budgets. This leaves only your discretionary expenses on the table for discussion. Sometimes simply having the numbers in front of you can help immensely.

Time – Lack of time together can cause stress in a relationship. We all remember the fun of dating a new person. Spending time together and doing things you both enjoy. Before you know it, that time together starts dwindling. Work schedules, kids, or other commitments to family and friends now take most of your time.
Spending time together allows you to reconnect and rediscover why you are together in the first place. “Date Nights” are the most common way to help increase your time together, but many couples find that they don’t enjoy the same things as they once did. This is fine, and often expected as our lives and interests change over the years. Simply creating a list of things you have never done, or just a list of things that neither of you hate, can go a long way in generating ideas for a date night. A search on the web for “Date night ideas”, “cheap date night ideas”, etc. can give you lots of ideas as well.

Trust – Trust in a relationship is complex. It is hard to build and can be easy to destroy. Lack of trust or broken trust often has two factors. The first is the anger and disappointment felt by one partner and the other falls under uncertainty in the future of the relationship. Working through a trust issue can be very hard on a couple. There are resources available online and at your local library, as well as possibly seeking professional counseling that can help you through a trust issue and thereby help relieve the stress.

Communication – Different types of communication styles can cause stress while lack of communication can keep the stress from subsiding. The easier of these two to handle is lack of communication. Lack of communication can be as simple as lack of time together — it is hard to communicate openly with someone you rarely see or do not have enough time to complete your conversation. Putting a conversation into a tight time frame can make both parties feel rushed to get their point across while being dismissive of the other person’s ideas and comments.

Different types of communication styles can cause unintentional friction and misunderstanding – both of which can lead to stress. Additionally, different types of communication style can make it seem like there is little communication happening in a relationship. Our communication styles when dealing with a partner often times do not vary much over time but our communication goal does. At the beginning of a relationship our goal is often to understand the person we are talking to and to express an idea or feeling. Later, many conversations are simply trying to relay information between partners. In a rush, the content of a message is more important than the method of expression of the message. Sometimes the easiest way to handle differing communication styles is to engage in more communication without being confrontational. Talk to your partner about something they (or you) said, how it was taken, and what was actually meant without being confrontational. If the other person gets defensive, reassure them that you are trying to understand them, not change them.

General Uncertainty – Humans are creatures of comfort. We like to know where our next meal is coming from, know the car will not break down, and generally what direction our lives are headed. Uncertainty can come in any form. It simply has to make us feel uneasy. Uncertainty can cause good and bad stress. Sports, roller coasters, and waiting for a blind date, are often forms of good stress. In these cases, it is the uncertainty (and the stress it causes) that makes these things fun and exhilarating. It is often relatively short in time as well.

Uncertainty is also the root cause of most types of bad stress. Bad uncertainty can be anything that causes you to believe your life will be altered in a negative way. “Where will I live?” is the uncertainty when facing an eviction or foreclosure.

Stress in a relationship can also cause lots of uncertainty because it is often accompanied by a major life change. This can lead you into a downward spiral where uncertainty causes stress in a relationship which causes even more uncertainty and stress. This stress is best combated by signs of support from your partner. As you support each other, the uncertainty of the relationship starts to diminish along with its stress. This is often said along the lines of “We’ll get through this together.” Working to eliminate relationship uncertainty stress makes it much easier to tackle any other stressors.

Relationship stress can be hard to overcome but is often achievable. Once you understand the causes of stress in your relationship, you can work towards finding the right approach to minimizing it.  by Nathan Haby