Stress Origins Relationships

When you’re going through a stressful time, you may feel very much alone. Stress doesn’t happen in a vacuum, however. If you or a loved one is stressed out, everyone in the family is affected. The stress you feel can create stress in relationships. Learn about relationships and stress and how to ease relationship stress.

How Stress Affects Relationships

Regardless of whether you’re in a relationship, stress causes a variety of behavioral, cognitive, emotional and physical symptoms, including:

  • Agitation
  • Alcohol, cigarette and drug use
  • Change of sleep habits
  • Decreased libido
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Isolation from others
  • Nervous habits such as biting nails, drumming fingers or pacing
  • Poor judgment
  • Procrastination and neglect of responsibilities.

It takes work to maintain relationships, and stress can make this task extremely difficult. Symptoms of stress can affect communication, intimacy and the sense of camaraderie with your partner.

Research on Relationship Stress

A study published in the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” (2009) confirms the negative effects of stress on relationships. Research revealed that during times of increased stress, subjects perceived slights and strains more acutely.

Spouses with high stress levels–especially women–had stronger reactions to the normal ups and downs in relationships, regardless of self-esteem levels or styles of relating. Stress also colored the perception of relationships, making couples more likely to perceive a relationship as negative, as well as overwhelming constructive relationship skills.

Combating Stress in Relationships

Stress may strain the best of relationships, but it doesn’t have to ruin them. With awareness and teamwork, you can work together to combat stress and deepen your relationship. Here are a few suggestions to help eliminate stress in relationships:

  • Exercise together: A peaceful walk, bike ride or exercise class with your partner may reduce stress while enhancing closeness, health and mood.
  • Face challenges together: Remember that you’re a team. When you put your heads together, your problem solving resources are more than doubled.
  • Share relaxing times: Take a short romantic retreat from whatever is going on. A candlelit dinner with no talk of problems or an evening giving each other massages may refresh you and strengthen your bond.
  • Take a time-out: If you feel ready to blow up at your partner for every little mannerism or gesture, you may need a little time on your own. Before reacting in anger, consider taking some time alone with a good book or a long bath. Try to remember all the reasons you were attracted to your significant other in the first place. During this time apart, think about the root causes of your stress, which probably have nothing to do with your spouse.


Grohol, J. (2010). Stress hurts relationships. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from

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Langholt, A. (2010). How to protect your marriage from the effects of stress. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from