Even if you didn't learn about it in your physiology class back in high school, I'm sure you know what stress is. But a lot of us (myself included) are not quite sure how to deal with stress when it inevitably makes its way into our relationships.
You know what I'm talking about.
Sometimes, when you had a brutal day at work, you snap at your boyfriend for no good reason. When you were so bogged down by family problems, you weren't even in the mood to have sex. When he was so stressed about the fight he got into with his best friend, it felt like pulling teeth trying to hold a conversation with him at dinner.
I interviewed Dr. Pete Sulack, one of the world's leading experts on stress, to discuss how to deal with stress when it starts negatively impacting your relationships.
As hellish as it feels when you're in the thick of stressful times, Dr. Sulack wants us to know that a little bit of stress can actually be a good thing for your relationship. It can almost solidify your relationship in a positive way.
When your relationship survives the rough patches, you're only going to come out of it with greater certainty that the relationship is worth it.
In fact, Dr. Sulack went on to note that a relationship is also a great stress reliever. A positive, supportive, loving relationship is one of the greatest ways to stay resilient in the face of the stress that affects us on a regular basis.
That being said, we all know stress is inevitable, so I talked to Dr. Sulack about some tips on how to deal with stress in our relationships:
If you're stressed...
It doesn't matter how carefree and easygoing you are; every once in a while, you're going to get stressed.
How do you make sure that stress doesn't take a negative toll on your relationship?
Well, for starters, Dr. Sulack recommends building up your own resilience to stress by taking part in activities to counteract it. He explains that the real problem starts when you enter a relationship with no way to counterbalance the other stressors in your life.
And don't worry, guys. I asked him how to counterbalance.
Turns out, it's pretty easy. Just do things that make you feel good: exercise, eat healthy and surround yourself with supportive people who allow you to make mistakes. Make conscious decisions that are going to take you toward where you want to go in life.
All of these small habits, which are really about leading a healthier lifestyle, can actually work to reduce your body's response to physical stress. That way, you won't bring all of that nasty baggage into your relationship because, well, it won't exist.
That being said, your partner can and should be a supportive person who is going to allow you to make mistakes. It's okay to lean on them every once in a while, just like they should feel okay leaning on you.
Dr. Sulack warns that you just have to make sure you're investing in a person more than you're taking from them.
In other words, you can obviously lean on your partner, but make sure you're building them up more often than you're bringing them down with your stress.
If he's stressed...
If your significant other is stressed, Dr. Sulack explains that it's important that you try your best to serve as a pillar of support for them.
How do you go about doing that? Well, it really comes down to being a positive influence. Help them out with problems whenever you have a chance, and try to positively affirm them as much as you can.
Dr. Sulack specifically highlighted the importance of positive affirmation, as it is "proven to help the body cope with stress more effectively." Go ahead and tell your partner how wonderful they are; it'll work wonders.
Of course, there are going to be times when you're also stressed, and all you want to do is come home and complain about your long, horrible day.
You'll quickly realize, though, that your partner is just as stressed as you are. Dr. Sulack encourages you to do your very best to be the bigger person in that situation. Try your best to come home, and "try to be a positive influence to actually serve your partner."
With all of this being said, it's important to remember that a limit does exist here.
If you're constantly taking on your partner's baggage without ever getting anything in return, you have a real problem on your hands. Dr. Sulack warns, "if someone's not investing in your life, and all they're doing is taking from you, that's abuse."
You shouldn't force yourself to stay in a relationship where you feel like you're constantly trying to make your partner happy. But every now and again, when your typically-loving partner is going through a hard time, it's important to try your best to be there to support them.