Every relationship, if it lasts long enough, has to survive periods of intense stress. There are certain life events that cause a great deal of stress: changing jobs or schools, getting married or divorced, having a child or having a child go away to school or the military, moving, a death in the family, and other significant life events.
Experiencing any of these events by themselves can be extremely stressful and sometimes overwhelming; the stress can affect your relationship with your spouse or partner. My husband and I are not strangers to stress: three years ago, our son left for the Army the same day we loaded our moving truck to head across the country for me to attend grad school. We were facing several life-changing events all at once.
Somewhere along the way, the stress got the best of us, and we ended up snapping at each other, withdrawing from each other, and taking everything personally. It took a good six months for us to recover and rebuild our relationship.
One of the most stressful periods we endured was the spring of 2008. We had two kids graduating from high school and were gearing up to move cross-country. Dave was carrying 22 credits in college to graduate as well, and my in-laws were staying with us for three weeks. Just to make it challenging, we also bought a house long-distance.
Amazingly, we were not stressed with each other. Oh, we were stressed – just not with each other! Knowing how horrid the experience was the last time we were crazy enough to flit across the country, we worked hard to minimize the effects of the stress on our relationship. Learning to work together to manage the stress of daily life has paid off. Recently, we’ve been dealing with sick kids, sick animals, a broken down vehicle, and my husband’s injury that will require surgery.
If you and your partner are facing any kind of stress (whether it’s the daily “I hate my job” stress or the “Everything in my life has been upended” stress) there are things you can do to not only protect your relationship but to help you handle your stress more effectively.
The most important thing is to recognize that you’ll both be affected by what is going on and to TALK to each other. Take the time to share your concerns with your partner. Make time for each other. No matter how crazy things are, make dates at least a couple times a month. Hire a sitter, call in sick to work, unplug the phone – do whatever it is you have to do to get that time.
When things become overwhelming, let your partner know that you are having a particularly rough time. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. The more the two of you stay connected, the less impact the stress will have on your relationship. You’ll face it together instead of tearing each other apart to survive.