Stress can place internal and external pressure on us as individuals. We can get worn out and out of sorts. Soon irritability and exhaustion start getting in our way.
The same dynamic holds true for our relationships. In fact, as life goes on, you and your partner may directly or indirectly put a significant amount of pressure on each other. And, combined with pressures weighing on you from the outside world, life and love can start to feel like a pressure cooker.
Are you and you and your partner acting out towards each other? Is interaction tense or awkward? Have your schedules and individual responsibilities wedged themselves between you?
All of this can damage your connection and harm the plans you have for a future together.
Finding ways to release the pressure in and on your relationship should quickly rise to the top of your relationship to-do list.
Internal Relationship Stress
No matter how in sync you feel, you and your spouse are distinct, unique individuals. There will be plenty of times when your needs and wants don’t line up.
That’s not something to worry about or try to avoid. Relationships are fluid and couples should be flexible. You were likely drawn together by the inherent and interesting dynamics that make you good compliments to each other.
Still, the inevitable conflicts that come with being unique persons will occur. Certain factors like an age gap, cultural differences, differing attachment styles, etc. can become relationship stressors.
Such situations require nuanced communication and compromise. Without communication skills, clear boundaries, and the ability to repair relationship damage effectively, a build-up of internal relationship stress is difficult to overcome. Unresolved stress can also erode relationship satisfaction, leaving you both feeling unpleasantly anxious about your compatibility.
External Relationship Stress
It may be tempting to sum up external stress on a relationship as “everything else” happening around you. But that would be inaccurate. Everyday life throws curve balls at your life together on a regular basis. That doesn’t necessarily lead to relationship damage.
What does lead to trouble? Repeated failure to balance and process outside stress as a team. Any number of the following life surprises has the power to add stress to your connection if you allow them to divide and conquer you:
- Health problems
- Money issues
- Interference from your extended family
- Job-related stress or unemployment
- School-related stressors
- Conflict with neighbors or friends
- The death of a loved one
- A toxic confluence of events, e.g. global pandemic, crashed economy, hurricanes and wildfires, civil unrest, and divisive elections
Essentially, external stress is an inescapable part of life. When combined with the obligations of a relationship, such stress can come between you. Learning to balance and prioritize responsibilities can be exhausting. Many couples make the mistake of pulling away rather than turning toward each other when things get rough or uncertain.
How to Overcome Internal & External Relationship Stress
Commit to Communication
This is always the first step. Problems are impossible to avoid and sometimes difficult to see coming. How you communicate about them is the only thing within your control. Schedule time for regular, face-to-face “state-of-the-relationship” discussions.
Deep down, no one likes to compromise. But even deeper, almost everyone likes connecting and bonding with other people — especially our partners. Since you can’t have one without the other, accepting the necessity of compromise can make all the difference in retaining closeness and intimacy.
Stay in the Moment
Stress takes us away from the present. It can leave us replaying the past and/or dreading the future. Practicing mindfulness keeps us rooted in the moment. This way, pressure can be better managed with less judgment and more compassion.
Set, Enforce, Respect Boundaries
Even soulmates need their own space. Maintaining independent lives is a sign of a healthy relationship. So, during your state-of-the-relationship discussions, be sure to bring up the topic of boundaries. Each of you must feel free and safe when setting relationship guidelines and personal limits. Check in often as well, to be sure boundaries are still effective and respected as stress ebbs and flows.
Couples Counseling: Where the External Strengthens the Internal
Under pressure, it can be challenging to see a way out of the discomfort. You may give in to emotion. Tempers flare, resentment and blaming can create rifts. In these circumstances, productive interactions can be few and far between.
But you don’t have to go on this way. Couples counseling is a great next step.
Committing to regular sessions is a giant step toward finding solutions together. Your therapist is an unbiased guide. Your time together is a safe space. Difficult emotions and issues are discussed helpfully and productively.
I’m here to help. Let’s turn down the stress and release the pressure. Read more about couples counseling and contact me soon for an online consultation. In time, you and your partner can make way for clearer solutions, lasting healing, and a happier, freer future together.