How to Keep Stress from Ruining Your Relationship
Sometimes life can get so stressful, it feels like your mind is a pressure cooker about to boil over. That tension doesn't just affect you! In news that will surprise no one who's snapped at their partner after a hellish day, experiencing routine stress can negatively affect a relationship, according to new research.
A team of study authors from Monmouth University and Ursinus College assigned 120 study participants to high or low stress situations. Under a time limit, those in the low stress condition solved simple math problems while those in the high dealt with much more complex ones (I'm nervous just thinking about it!). Then they listed as many compliments they could come up with about their partners in two minutes. The researchers used that number to gauge how much participants cared about keeping their relationships positive.
The researchers also told the participants they could have as many one-on-one "get to know you/acquaintance building exercises" with as many people as they wanted from a pool of 12 single, physically attractive individuals. The point of this exercise was to measure how much attention they paid to romantic alternatives.
The participants who were stressed gave 15 percent fewer compliments and chose nearly 20 percent more attractive partners to interact with than those who were more relaxed. Less compliments translates into less nurturing of a relationship, while paying more attention to other romantic options means....well, I think that's obvious.
So, how can you keep stress from coming at your relationship like a wrecking ball? Try these tactics:
Perform Small Gestures. When you get into that strained headspace and know you may get testy with your guy, do something small and kind for him instead. Maybe grab his favorite ice cream on your way home from work, or randomly tell him something he's done lately that has impressed you. His gratitude is like positive reinforcement: when you're sweet to him, you get sweetness back. You'll realize how much worse of a time you'd have if you'd gone with your first instinct to be unpleasant.
Take a Break. If you feel the devil on your shoulder getting ready to rumble, just walk away. Taking a pause to let yourself simmer down is key. You'll realize that no, your boyfriend isn't being a colossal jerk, you're actually still pissed about how your boss spoke down to you in front of your colleagues. Once you're able to find the root of your bad mood, you won't feel as inclined to take it out on your guy.
Exercise. What better way to release aggression than an intense kickboxing class? Or to calm you down than some quality Pilates? A good sweat session is an easy way to boost your mood. Bonus: it'll release endorphins that will have you craving a different kind of workout. Together. In bed.
Have a Mantra. Choose two simple sayings that will ground you when you feel like your head's about to spin off. The first you'll say to yourself when you feel like you're neglecting your relationship in the form of giving less compliments or being overly critical. It can be something like, "I care about Nick so much, and my job already affects my life in such a negative way. I won't let it influence our relationship, too." Then pick another you can actually say out loud to your partner like, "I'm sorry I'm getting like this. It's unfair, and I shouldn't take my stress out on you." Voila!
How do you keep stress from affecting your relationship too much?