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5 Ways Stress Can Affect Your Romantic Relationships

Plus, what you can do about it.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: JGI/Jamie Grill

Not only is stress unpleasant to deal with, but it can also cause a surge in your overall anxiety levels and affect your emotional, physical, and mental health. "Our levels of stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and epinephrine go up and down throughout the day and, with each stressful event, heart rate and blood pressure go up," explains Antonia Hall, a psychologist, relationship expert, and author. Because stress impacts so many different facets of our life, it's only natural that it also affects our relationships. In other words, if you're not taking care of yourself and managing your stress, it will have a direct impact on your partner's stress level and the satisfaction in your relationship overall.

 

Here are some key ways stress can impact your relationship and how to defuse, reset, and destress so you can get back to being happily in love.

 

Related: Marriage Tips From Couples Who Walked Down the Aisle and Into Wedded Bliss

 

You can take out your stress on your partner.

When we're under a lot of stress, the people nearest to us can often become the unfortunate victim of the backlash, explains Hall. "Being under pressure rarely brings out the best in people, especially emotionally," she says. "It can make us withdraw, see issues where none exist, lash out emotionally, and shirk away from affection, which is naturally very hard on your partner and the relationship." In this situation, she recommends amping up your self-care rituals. "Getting out into nature, exercising, and meditating are all helpful in lowering stress levels and rebalancing."

 

You may become less empathetic to your partner.

Research has shown that couples under stress show less empathic responses towards their partner. "Without a bonded sense of togetherness, partners will feel isolated and alone, which begets emotional responses that can lead to a greater divide in the relationship," warns Hall. She recommends trying your best to show love and appreciation for your partner even when you might not totally feel up to it. "Even 10 minutes a day of touching, kissing, and intimately connecting with your partner can make a big difference in the relationship and in lowering stress levels," she adds.

 

Stress becomes your priority, not your relationship.

When you're engaged, it's important not to lose sight of what you're about to do—marry the love of your life. While planning every detail of the day might seem important, and it is, it's not more important than ensuring that you and your partner are happy and in love. "A happy, healthy relationship needs consistent energy infusing it with the love it deserves," says Hall. "When this is withdrawn from either partner, it can create a distancing that can harm the bond between partners and the overall relationship." She recommends carving out time for each other to reinforce the importance of the relationship. "Choose activities that feel like playtime to you both."

 

Sex can go out the window.

Being physically intimate is important for the overall happiness and health of your relationship. "When you're preoccupied with other things, sex is the last thing on your mind," says Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think, Act & Be Happy. "Remember that stress shifts you from your 'feed and breed' state to 'fight or flight'—and high levels of stress can keep you locked in that negative state."

 

You mistakenly think you're falling out of love.

"In many ways, love is a chemical footprint in the brain and high levels of stress can make you feel like you're not in love anymore, as it can deplete your levels of serotonin," says Dr. Dow. "We know that high levels of serotonin are found in couples who are in long-term relationships, so it creates the illusion you're not in love." Managing your stress can help you break out of this rut and refocus on what matters most—your relationship.