Psychologist and counselor Zainab Farrukh is a contributor to our blog and has taken some time today to help you identify the signs of unhealthy and stressful relationships. This should give you a clear idea of how stress affects your relationship.
Stress is a natural part of our bodies and plays a major role in keeping us healthy. However, when there’s too much stress, and when we don’t know how to deal with it, it can become extremely destructive.
Too much stress doesn’t just affect you, it’ll affect your relationship through you or your partner, or both.
We are all too familiar with how stress impacts our relationships.
For example, a bad day at work can make you displace your resentment on your partner when you get back home. Or a bad traffic jam on the way back can make you ignore the ones who have been waiting to talk to you all day.
Is this happening in your relationship? Not sure? I recommend both you and your partner take a look and discuss the 6 symptoms of relationship stress below.
6 Relationship Stress Symptoms
Here are some of the most common effects of stress on a relationship, paired with helpful advice on dealing with relationship stress.
We do not anticipate how stress will affect us and our behavior; but life stressors often make us feel powerless and out of control in a given situation. That feeling of being out of control rings a bell; and our brain goes into a mode where we feel agitated, irritable, and restless.
Therefore, when you are stressed, the way you behave in your relationships is likely to change; and thus impact your relationships negatively. Below is a list of ways you or your partner might be hurting your relationship when you’re stressed out.
You or Your Partner Become More Reactive
When you are stressed; the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
This just means the brain signals the body which goes into something called the “Fight or Flight Mechanism”. This is why you become sensitive to things that do not usually bother you.
You become highly reactive to everything around you – including your loved one. This explains those situations when one of you lash out at one another for no apparent reason, and then just walk out the room and refuse to talk.
When this happens once, it’s no big deal, but in serious relationships that last years these little pecks accumulate over time and then make a big difference that can lead to break ups or divorce.
And there’s nothing worse than separating from your potential “soul mate” for the wrong reasons. One of the basic things you can do is to try and be aware when this is happening to you.
This is the reason why psychologists advise communication so much. Communication leads to understanding, and understanding means you will understand the lashing out, the sudden change in mood, and there will be a lot less confusion, anger, and unnecessary conflict.
Download a .pdf containing all the symptoms of stressful and unhealthy relationships.
You May Feel Angry At Your Partner For Little Things
This is one of the first signs that stress is influencing your relationship. One of you is lashing out at everything and the other is left confused and upset about why is your partner being so angry and “difficult”. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Let’s see another one.
You Tend To Find Faults In Your Partner
Being anxious; you may find yourself at your wit’s end. And at times, you go inviting trouble. In periods of distress, you may displace your anger on your spouse or partner – continuously berating them or finding faults with whatever they do.
You Have Frequent Mood Swings
When you are stressed, you will find yourself being pulled into a roller-coaster of emotions.
You may feel like a victim. Being helpless could elicit feelings such as sadness, hopelessness, anger, or agitation. Experiencing these tumultuous emotions will definitely make way about how you interact with your partner – and it could cause a rift between you.
You must put in the effort to either prevent this rift opening or to close it once it’s open, and not feed it with stress and let it widen even more.
You Become Physically And Emotionally Detached
Sometimes you are habitually wired to go into the “flight” mode, when you are stressed. This often means that you will withdraw or go into your “shell” when something is bothering you. So, you will naturally become aloof and withdrawn from your partner. If your relationship with your partner is not steady – it is likely to have a negative impact on your partner and push them away as well.
Your Libido Decreases
Stress alters hormone levels released in the body; therefore periods of high stress is likely to cause a decrease in your libido. You may not even want to be physically close to your partner – while this is a natural stress response; it may cause your partner to feel rejected or overlooked.
For example, stressful relationships can cause erectile dysfunction in men, which can additionally ruin your love life.
When you are perpetually stressed out because of situations in your life such as work problems or financial constraints or health issues – you may not realize but your relationship with your significant other can unconsciously turn into an unhealthy relationship.
This is because you are being unconsciously controlled by the stress in your life. Hence you’re not fully present in the relationship.
6 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Relationship
Communication is the most important building block of a relationship. More importantly, communication is a two-way street. Not being able to communicate your message or needs to your partner (or vice versa) is the first sign that you are in an unhealthy relationship.
This is a huge issue for many couples, but the good thing is this: It can be fixed just as easily if you’re both willing to put in the effort.
Lack Of Trust
Trust is the foundation of a relationship and communication breeds trust. Unhealthy communication patterns can lead to mistrust among partners. Once mistrust settles in – it’s a major sign that your relationship is deteriorating.
According to The Relationships Indicator Survey 2011, lack of trust is among the top four reasons why relationships fail or simply do not work out. The other three are communication, stress, and having different values.
The beauty of a relationship is the “equality” between partners; where each feels safe to say or express what they want to share. On the other hand; unequal relationship, where one partner dominates the relationship there’s a good chance things will go wrong.
Blaming Each Other For Failures or Mishaps
Yet another sign of a failing relationship is when one or both partners start blaming the other for the failures or mishaps that happen in their life.
Statements such as “You have brought me bad luck” are a form of extreme emotional abuse and can also cause depression among partners on the receiving end of abuse. That’s an extreme example and is easily noticeable, but there are far more subtle ways of abuse that you may not even realize you’re part of.
Verbal, Emotional and/or Physical Abuse
Abuse of any sort is an eminent sign of a disastrous relationship. It is a common misconception that only physical abuse causes a lasting damage on the relationship and the recipient.
On the contrary – verbal, emotional and financial abuse is just as detrimental to a relationship as physical abuse.
Another sign of an unhealthy relationship is codependency. This occurs when one or both partners become dependent on each other to fulfill their emotional, social and physical needs, despite abuse and negativity in the relationship.
How to Remove Stress from your Relationship
We encounter multiple stressors every day and they are bound to affect our relationships negatively. However, once you are aware of how stress affects your loved ones, you can actively and consciously choose to use stress as a tool to deepen your relationship with your significant others!
Instead of reacting from a “fight” or “flight” perspective – you can choose to respond differently.
The first step would be to start communicating and let your partner know about the troubles you are going through and how they are making you feel. Don’t hesitate to be vulnerable and let yourself be soothed by your loved ones.
Download our relationship handybook for this article.
It’s a summarized list of stressful and unhealthy relationships symptoms. It’d be great if you could open this up the next time you see your partner, and go through the list together. (coming soon!)
Zainab Farrukh: 10 Ways Low Self-Esteem Affects Your Relationship
Zainab Farrukh is a psychologist, researcher, and writer. She also works as an online mental health counselor and as a contributor to Life of a Winner.