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Is Work Stress Sabotaging Your Relationship?

A common cause of relationship strife is work stress. Here’s what you need to know to cope.

MirageC/Getty Images
MirageC/Getty Images

No matter how solid a relationship is, there will always be life stressors that come along that can put a strain on things, especially when you’re a busy, working professional. The number one cause of problems that negatively impact relationships is not sex, money or infidelity, but stress from our jobs. In America, we often promote the importance of a healthy work/life balance, and despite this, our jobs remain the top source of stress in our personal lives.

The real issue is how to identify work stress in the first place

Working is a part of life, and while some may be more fortunate than others and have landed a relatively care-free job, the majority of people have tough days on the job on a somewhat regular basis. If it’s not obvious to you that your work may be the issue, here are some signs that can suggest it is:

● You are bringing your work home with you, and it remains a focus during your time off

● You’ve become emotionally unavailable and less empathetic

● You’re mentally burnt out and aren’t sleeping well

● Stress from the boardroom has made its way into the bedroom

● You don’t have the energy to do things outside of the office such as date nights

The short and long-term effects on your relationship

In the short term and on a daily basis, too much stress at work can result in things like bailing on plans with your partner, snapping at them, or even worse, taking your stress out on them. If you’re in a healthy relationship, your partner will be supportive and more than willing to listen to your problems — the issue is that over time this can take a toll on them and your relationship. You have to be aware of your stress, where it comes from, and be able to communicate to your partner what is causing you to worry or upset. This person should be your ally in life. Make sure you are aware of the bleedover that stress from work is doing to your personal life — and own it. After you can own it, make sure your partner knows you have a plan for dealing with it.

How to balance work and a relationship, successfully

It is possible to manage your job and your relationship successfully. Like most things in life, however, it’s all about balance. Work stress is almost unavoidable, but the reason that a lot of couples find it affecting their relationship is that they are not sure how to cope with stress from work. It’s important to learn how to compartmentalize your life so that you don’t bring outside issues into your relationship, and you learn how to de-stress on a personal level. We’ve all heard this before, but things like committing to daily exercise, getting a reasonable amount of sleep and making time to do things that make you happy really do wonders for mental health. For example, stopping at the gym for a group cycling class before you head home can leave you with a rush of endorphins that mellow you out before you seek your partner’s advice.

How much is too much when sharing with your partner?

It can be hard to know how much to share and when to talk about work stress with your partner. Some people may be the type to unload their problems while others internalize and try to “keep work at work.” Not only is hiding your problems from your partner nearly impossible, but it’s also unhealthy and a missed opportunity for an emotional connection.

On the other end of the spectrum, complaining about your issues in an over-the-top dramatic way is also not the best way to get our partner’s genuine support. Neither is necessarily the best option and there needs to be a middle ground. One way to do this is by setting an intention for your partner and letting them know what you need before unloading the details of why you’re upset, stressed or having a mental breakdown. Some people can become frustrated if they feel like they don’t know how to support you. By saying things like “I need your advice,” or “I just want to get this off my chest,” you’re telling your partner exactly what you need and they will know what’s expected of them.

And check yourself. Make sure it isn’t all about you and your stressful work issues taking over the conversation every night. Make sure you are asking your loved one how their day is, how you can be there for them, and let them know you appreciate the support and are extremely grateful.

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