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The impact of stress in relationships

Updated: Apr 17

a couple sat on opposite sides of a bed facing away from each other with sad expressions on their faces

Relationships are complex and require effort, communication and empathy. However, it can be challenging to keep up with these responsibilities when one or both partners are experiencing high levels of stress.


As a common aspect in any relationship, stress can be triggered by various factors, including financial problems, work-related issues, or family conflicts. The majority of the time, stress can arise due to a mismatch in expectations, the incompatibility of lifestyles, and different perspectives on how to approach problems.


What happens when stress levels are high?


“People may have different love languages and this can lead to misunderstandings,” says Evangelia Mylona, a Psychotherapist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea. “When being caught up in a disagreement with a partner, it is easy to get lost in the emotion and miss the point being made.”


When stress levels are high, the impact on the relationship can be profound. Over time, stress can take a toll on a relationship leading to heartbreak, misunderstandings, and even breakups. Recognising how stress can negatively affect relationships is the first step towards maintaining positive connections, or rebuilding rocky ones.


Here are some of the key ways stress impacts relationships:


Stress can lead to communication breakdown: This is perhaps the most pertinent point as effective communication and understanding are fundamental to (most) healthy relationships. When one partner is stressed, it can be difficult to communicate effectively.


They may become short-tempered, irritable, or withdrawn. On the other hand, when one partner is trying to help the stressed partner, they may become frustrated with their inability to communicate, which can lead to arguments and misunderstandings.


Stress can reduce intimacy: When one partner is stressed, they may not feel like being intimate, which can create frustration or even resentment from the other partner, who may feel neglected or unimportant.


It is essential to understand that stress is often related to many factors, including mental and physical health issues, workplace or financial obligations, and other personal factors.


Stress can cause a lack of emotional support: When one partner is experiencing high levels of stress, they may feel unsupported or abandoned by their partner.


They may believe that their partner doesn't care about their stress or struggles. This feeling can lead to mistrust and doubt, eventually resulting in a breakdown of the relationship.


Stress can cause depression and anxiety: These are additional barriers to a healthy and fulfilling relationship.


Depression or anxiety can cause one partner to isolate themselves from the relationship, leading to a feeling of detachment and distance in the relationship.


It is essential to recognise these challenges and work with your partner to address them to overcome these challenges.


How to manage stress in relationships


a happy couple walking in a field, the man is giving the woman a piggy-back ride

When stress levels are high in a relationship it can feel like a failure. However, hope is not lost and there are ways to build healthy connections, even through stressful times.

Evangelia explains, “A way forward is to try and look for the intention behind the argument, and remember that you’re are a team and can work together toward mutual understanding.”


Now that we’ve addressed how stress can negatively impact relationships, here are some useful tips for managing stress to support the building of healthy relationships:


Communication: Communication is the most crucial factor in any relationship. It is important to communicate effectively and transparently with your partner regarding your feelings, wants, and expectations.


Communication is the key to resolving any stress factors in your relationship. Talk to your partner and listen to their thoughts and take their opinion into consideration when making important decisions.


Set boundaries: Boundaries are important in any relationship. When it comes to stress and relationships, setting boundaries can be useful in diffusing stress levels.


Couples should be clear about their individual expectations and boundaries, and establish ground rules that should be respected by each partner. This can help to reduce stress and to avoid conflicts that can arise over unclear expectations.


Maintain a healthy work-life balance: Work can be hectic and demanding, leaving individuals with less time to spend with their partners. It is essential to balance work and personal life to keep stress levels in check.


Scheduling time with your partner, having date nights, or doing activities that both parties enjoy can release pressure and strengthen communication in the relationship. This will also enhance intimacy, improve attraction, and build a stronger relationship.


Learn how to compromise: Compromise is an essential element in any healthy relationship. Being able to compromise helps to reduce stress levels by finding solutions that work for both parties. Instead of having a “win-lose” mentality, learn to have a “win-win” approach.


Open communication and learning how to balance each other’s likes and dislikes can help to reduce stress levels in the relationship.


Find help for stress in London at Schoen Clinic Chelsea


At Schoen Clinic Chelsea, our leading London mental health centre, we support adults with a variety of mental health conditions, including stress.


We understand that stress can have a significant impact on relationships so we offer a variety of treatment options to help dismantle stress and make it more manageable.


We offer one-to-one appointments with our experts, a highly specialised treatment programme for adults with mental health problems and a range of group therapies - accessible through the programme, or single group therapy sessions for self-funding patients wanting a fast way to begin therapy.


Call the team at Schoen Clinic Chelsea on 020 3146 2300  to find out more information about our mental health services in London.


When it comes to relationships, it’s vital to recognise the signs of stress and talk to your partner carefully. Support, better communication, empathy, and understanding are some of the best ways to overcome the impact of stress on relationships.


headshot of Evangelia Mylona, a Psychotherapist wearing a green shirt

Through effective and healthy communication, couples can navigate stress together and continue to build and maintain healthy relationships.


This page was reviewed by Evangelia Mylona, a Psychotherapist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea on 12th April 2023.

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