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7 silent signs stress is hurting your relationship

7 silent signs stress is hurting your relationship

Is stress affecting your relationship?

Between the demands of parenting, financial woes and the everyday drudgery of maintaining a household, stress is unavoidable in a long-term relationship. But it doesn’t have to ruin it. Look out for these warning signs that stress could be affecting life with your nearest and dearest.

You feel like you don’t have any time to yourself

Sometimes, it’s too easy to get so caught up in your daily routine that you forget to make room for some me-time. If you find that you become overwhelmed too easily and don’t have time to do the things you want, that’s a clear sign you’re stressed. “Don’t let the weight of everyday issues overshadow the connection with your partner,” says licensed mental health counsellor Aniesa Schneberger. She suggests scheduling breaks throughout the week that are reserved just for you. Whether it’s a few minutes of sitting quietly, calling a friend, taking a walk, or anything else that you enjoy doing, be sure to do it. Not having enough me-time can get in the way of couple time.

You’re not having sex as often as you did earlier on in your relationship

An ongoing preference to go to bed early instead of enjoying time between the sheets – especially when you both used to feel more frisky more frequently – can be an indication that stress is hurting your relationship. Although it’s not uncommon for the sexual energy that was once extremely common during the romantic phase of your relationship to wane, every couple still carries with them those initial memories of romantic bonding, says Julia Breur, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist. Even if you’re not in the mood for sex, look for little ways to touch each other: Hug and kiss every day or hold hands when you’re watching TV on the sofa. Make date night a priority and that spark will rekindle in time.

You’re not as interested in what your partner has to say

If you find yourself offering a lot of “uh-huh’s” and “that’s nice” comments whenever your partner tells you about their day or an idea they have, that’s a telltale sign that stress is taking over. Don’t let thoughts of tomorrow’s meeting or mounting bills disrupt your communication. Instead, Schneberger says that eye-contact as well as active listening between both parties is key, and can help foster enhanced communication. Do your best to lock eyes with your partner and focus on what they are saying.

Your partner spends more time with other family members than you

It’s not unusual to call or visit family members, but when it becomes an escapist behaviour in which your partner interacts more with them than you, that’s a red flag. Breur explains that a host of assumptions enter the picture in this case, including the feeling that your partner is more comfortable talking for long periods of time about topics that should be reserved for the two of you. Similarly, your partner may opt to spend more time with your children or pet than you. The fix, Breur says, is to specifically convey to your partner how this makes you feel, while offering a compromise at the same time. For example, suggest that your partner still speak with their sibling, but tell them that talking for two hours daily is bothersome for you. Then, suggest reducing phone time and use the extra time to spend together.

Your partner would rather check their Facebook status than look at your face

Sure, animal videos and banal updates on the lives of people you haven’t talked to since high school are interesting, but when your partner – or you – start scrolling though endless pages of internet happenings, that’s not doing your relationship any favours. “We truly have become a mobile world,” Dr Breur says. “And with all the information and social media available 24/7, we have become a society that does not make communicating face to face a priority.” Her recommendation is to discuss this with your partner and come up with a tech-free solution you both agree on. One example might include not using the phone in the bedroom or while eating meals. Enjoying more personal interaction in a phone or computer-free environment will likely bring you closer.

You’re easily bothered by their voice pattern, cough, or sneeze

Feel like you’d rather drag your nails down a blackboard than hear your partner sneeze? If the sound of common habits, like a cough or sniffle start to irk you like no tomorrow, stress could be the culprit. Breur says that this is likely the stress you put on yourself manifesting in such a way that you become agitated with every little thing. She says to “be real about yourself” by assessing everything from whether you’re burning the candle at both ends at work to possible feelings that no one acknowledges your efforts. Next, ask your partner for help. After all, Breur explains, “Your partner is not a mind reader and needs to know your needs and even your life dreams.”

You or your partner are drinking too much alcohol

A couple of glasses of wine on occasion is one thing, but if you’ve started having that same amount of wine or hard alcohol on a daily basis, it could be indicative of an unhealthy stress management behaviour. “Many couples excuse these behaviours when they are dating and then act surprised that the behaviour continues into cohabitation or marriage,” Dr Breur says. Alcohol abuse is mentally and physically destructive to the relationship, not to mention the person doing the drinking. Breur advises you to cut back on drinking or, if necessary, considering seeking out a support group or talking to your doctor.

Written by Jennifer Lea Reynolds. This article first appeared on Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.