Although we’re wired for connection, stability and operating within certain limits, in recent decades, the pressure to ignore this biological reality has increased. As a result, stress is running rampant many areas of our lives, even our marriages. Researchers Dr. Lisa Neff and Dr. Benjamin Karney warn that relationships exposed to excessive stress have a higher chance of failing, so it’s important to get a handle on stress.
Here are some signs of stress in your marriage:
- Every little thing sets you off. Neff and Karney’s research found that chronically-stressed couples tend to be much more reactive to the normal ups and downs of their relationships. This finding was even stronger for women. What this means is that you may, for example, respond a little too defensively to the “tone” in your partner’s voice. And those dirty socks on the floor? They may just push you right over the edge!
- You’re focused on the negative. Studies show that under heavy stress, couples have trouble seeing the positives in their relationship and usually magnify anything negative that is happening. So, even though your husband stopped by the store to pick up a gallon of milk like you asked him to, all you can think of is that he got home late.
- You’re a control freak. When stressed, many of us get more rigid and judgmental. In a momentary desire to feel some sense of control, we may lose touch with the spirit of kindness and flexibility that nourishes a marriage.
- You feel bad physically. Does any of this sound familiar? You pick up every bug going around. Your jaws or shoulders are always clenched. You have a constant headache or churning stomach. You notice your heart racing. These are all ways that stress can manifest itself in our bodies. Health problems like these drain our energy, leaving us less to give to our marriages.
- You’re emotionally worn down. Chronic stress can also break down your emotional health, sometimes causing feelings of anxiety, depression or constant agitation. If you are struggling emotionally, it’s hard to be a supportive, compassionate partner in your marriage.
- You don’t seem like yourself. Does it seem like your relationship used to be easier? Unfortunately, because of the way the brain works, even if you have excellent relationship and communication skills, it is very hard to draw on those skills when overwhelmed. Just like a drowning person, when you are super stressed, all you can think of is survival, not how you’re going to phrase something so it doesn’t hurt your husband’s feelings.
It’s important to be aware of the ways stress may be hurting your relationship. In our next blog, we’ll look at how to relieve this stress, and make your marriage healthier.