Sometimes life just plain gets you down. You’ve got too much to do, you’re running empty, and you just can’t seem to find a moment to just breathe. Stressed out becomes your norm, stealing your pleasure along with your sanity.
This kind of stress can sabotage your relationship.
Here’s how it plays out. First you talk to your partner less so you can focus on getting shit done. Then, when you do talk, you’re short, half listening, and snap. You might even get a little resentful, blame them for your problems, or start fantasizing about how much easier your life would be if you didn’t have to deal with your relationship. Because right now it’s just one more thing on your to-do list…
This level of stress isn’t good for anyone. You don’t need me to tell you that stress is hella bad for your body…but did you also know it messes with your libido, making you totally disinterested or must-have-it-now horny? Or that if fucks with your body image, which makes you really not want to have sexy times? Or question your partner and your relationship like WHOA? In short:
When you’re stressed, you both suffer.
For all those reasons and because your partner often gets the brunt of your relationship stress. After all, you trust they’ll stick around and continue loving you even when you aren’t fun, kind, patient, or present. This adds to your stress because you feel regretful and guilty about pushing them away, especially that time you snapped when they offered comfort (oh gurl I’ve been there).
The question becomes what the heck can you do about it? How do you deal with stress in your relationship without letting it take over? Here are five strategies you can use to get through stomach clenching, mind-cluttering moments.
Five Steps to Relieve Relationship Stress
- Schedule time. Schedule a half hour to do something –anything –together. The ideal activity will not only help you reconnect but also be a stress reliever. Sex is a great option (those endorphins work magic!) but so is watching a funny TV show, spending some time in nature, or getting a massage. If you are long, distance, schedule a phone or skype date (sex optional but recommended). Feel awkward about scheduling something? That’s ok – just remind yourself that if it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist. Even if you aren’t regularly a scheduler, it’s a lifesaver when stress takes over.
- Pattern interrupt. When you find yourself in a downward spiral of stress, guilt, or predicting the dramatic end of your relationship, notice it, name it, and stop to do something else for a few minutes. Dance, journal, cook, sing, shower, masturbate, run, create. You probably needed a break anyway. A note about this: this takes time and practice. It’s not a habit most people master immediately, especially if you aren’t used to noticing your thoughts. So don’t let this practice add to your stress – instead, celebrate every time you catch yourself in a feels spiral or can call yourself on your own BS. If you want more resources on this, I highly recommend Brooke Castillo’s Life Coach School podcast.
- Clue your partner in. You aren’t alone if you forget to tell your partner when your schedule gets bananas – I’m so guilty of this! *insert monkey covering eyes emoji* Do your best to give them a heads up OR if you don’t do that, just tell them while it’s happening. This doesn’t give you the go-ahead to lash out whenever you want but it helps your partner manage their expectations…and maybe inspires them to do something sweet (flowers? dishes? a massage? yes please!).
- Ask for help. I know, I know – you hate doing that. But at my most stressed, the best thing I’ve done is admit that I can’t do it all. When I don’t do this (and try to do it all), the beau and I end up fighting something fierce. And his response is always, “why didn’t you just ask for help?!” Figure out what you need, send your ego to the corner, and ask for it. If it’s time, how about they cook? Stress settling in your back/neck/joints/body? A massage sounds right. Do you need them out of the house so you can focus? Or do you want them right there beside you? What about hugs: do they help or make you more stressed? If you don’t figure this out in the (stressful) moment, use hindsight to start a conversation with your sweetie a la “Hey babe – the next time I lose my shit, this is what could help.”
- Recognize when they’re trying to help. Everyone deals with stress differently. And most likely how you feel most supported is related to your love language. If you and your sweetie have different languages, their version of helping might not feel very, well, helpful. That’s why it’s so important to ask for what you need. But even if you do, your partner might still try to help in their own unique way. For example, a lot of men use sex as an everything reliever. If this is your partner but not you, you might be a bit confused if they put the moves on after you express your feelings. a la, Seriously babe?! I just told you I’m stressed and now you wanna have sex?! Remember: they’re just trying to help.
Take a deep breath and know this too shall pass.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is hold on tight, get through it, and remember the most important lesson of all:
Whether it’s sickness, fights, stress at work, or anything else…eventually this too shall pass (somehow, someway). PS This post brought to you by a body full of Benadryl and the worst allergic reaction I’ve had in a while. It’s basically been my mantra all day. And it’s super appropros for relationships too. Win-win!