How Stress Can Impact on Your Relationship
I’m stressed enough as it is – this is the last thing I need! (how stress can have an alarming impact on your relationship and why…)
You might be surprised to hear that although there are some obvious ways in which stress at work can negatively affect your relationship, there are also some less obvious and more alarming ways it can affect it too.
The obvious things…
Had a bad day? Go home and take it out on your partner.
Feel like you’re drowning in work? Go home, have a big glass of wine and tell your partner you don’t want to talk about it.
Feeling wound up? Snap at your partner to ‘get off!’ when they try to give you some affection…
You get the gist. Feeling stressed at work is bound to have an effect on your home life, whether you are snappy, cold and uncommunicative or miserable, listless and withdrawn. These are the obvious ways stress at work can impact your marriage or relationship.
The Less Obvious Way Stress Can Jeopardise Your Relationship
There is, however, a more worrying side to it. It’s one that you may not know about and I want to spread the word because it’s important that you’re aware of how stress can jeopardise your relationship in a less obvious way.
In an article I wrote on LinkedIn (find it here) I talk about the stages of Stress Breakdown. I describe how we move through Stage One (minor, every day stress) to Stage Two (the inability to control our emotions) before finally ending up in Stage Three (breakdown).
Before I go on, I’d like to say that I feel I’m qualified to talk to you about this for 2 reasons:
1) I’m a qualified therapist.2) Sadly, It happened to me.
Yes – I found myself in Stage 3. Behaving irrationally; losing my grasp on what was important; and wondering whether or not my marriage was working. Bad times.
Crying in the toilets
You see, the funny thing is, I knew I hated my job. And I mean hated it. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I used to cry on the way to work, cry in the toilets all lunchtime and cry on the way home. Often I would cry in the evenings too. But for some reason I just thought I was miserable, or I knew I was stressed but didn’t really know what that meant.
I had no idea about the additional effects it could have, other than the knot in my stomach, the shaking and palpitations and, of course, all the crying. Also, I didn’t realise it could change me to the point that the person I was when my husband met me was now only a small part of who I’d become.
So for instance, I remember becoming fixated on how tidy things were. I can recall very clearly the anxious feeling of not being about to get the shelves in the kitchen looking tidy enough and crying (again!) about it. I can remember not wanting to do anything much, and having to spend all my time planning lessons and marking and feeling like I couldn’t breathe because my throat was closing up at the thought of all the work I had left to do. (And do you know what? Remembering it is making me feel anxious now, all this time later).
But worst of all I remember believing that my husband didn’t love me anymore, and wondering if I loved him, and telling him so. And he was devastated.
What happens in Stage 3?
The signs to look out for are:
An apparent personality transplant – you are behaving as if you are not the same person you once were.You avoid sensory stimulation – it feels too much. You can’t stand bright lights, loud noises, or even the touch of your partner.You can no longer ignore or ‘not react’ to things you once were able to ignore – you snap and over-react to the slightest provocation.You believe that your marriage or romantic partnership is breaking down.You may believe that you no longer love your partner, or that your partner has stopped loving you.
This is a confusing time for everyone involved. Unfortunately, what is happening is that the brain’s neurotransmitters are shutting down. The overstimulated, overwhelmed brain can no longer process everything and so the neurotransmitters associated with that part of the brain simply shut off – like an overloaded circuit in a circuit board. This means that the things that once held great importance to the over-stressed person no longer seem to matter. They are more concerned with alphabetising their bookshelf than they are paying the bills or tending to their loved one’s needs. And the awful thing is – they don’t realise it’s happening. Why would they? That part of their brain is no longer feeding them information, so they remain unaware that they aren’t doing the things they should be doing or used to do…
Stress at work could be why you’re feeling unhappy in your relationship
This article, then, is really to alert you to the possibility that stress could be the reason you are feeling unhappy in your relationship. Maybe things aren’t going well at work, and they aren’t going well at home either and you’re thinking, “This is all I need.”
But now you might be able to see that one could be the cause of the other, and you could reconsider the separation you are perhaps contemplating.
I gave a talk about this at an event a couple of months ago, and afterwards several people approached me with stories of themselves, their daughters, their best friends – all of whom had separated or divorced after suffering from a long period of stress at work.
This was a revelation to them. They felt as though they could now understand why the relationship had gone from being good to being unbearable. And they felt sad. Sad that they hadn’t known, sad that they had given up on their relationship without all the facts, and sad that they couldn’t go back.
I don’t want it to be too late for you if you recognise yourself in any of this.
So, give yourself a break. Take yourself away from the stress if you can, and find ways of managing it without taking it out on the one you love (for ideas see here). Maybe it’s even time to look for a new career?
Put Love First!
Use this new information to make that change: Be kind to your partner, tell them what you’ve discovered, and give them some love.
It’s never too late to save your relationship.
To find out more about how I can help you if you need to rediscover the love in your relationship, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 07876242203.