The effects of stress on your relationship can be easily overlooked, allowing larger problems to arise. Knowing the warning signs can help keep you and your relationship healthy.

Stress is an unavoidable part of life and can come from many sources. Work, finances, and family are all common areas for stress to arise.

In times of emotional stress, we try to find ways to cope and move on. But coping with stress doesn’t mean eliminating it.

Learning to effectively manage stress is important. Over time, stress can impact several aspects of your life and health, including your relationship.

The effects of stress can sometimes hide in plain sight, especially in our romantic relationships. We chalk things up to having a “bad day” or “not getting enough sleep.” But when those excuses are used every day, there may be something more going on.

If things have felt off or uncomfortable in your relationship, consider whether stress could be a factor.

Most of us like to think that we do a good job of keeping the effects of stress at bay.

But prolonged stress in any area will eventually take its toll no matter how well you think you’re managing it. And, one of the first places that toll can be taken is in your closest relationships.

Stress can affect you emotionally and physically. This can lead to changes in your behavior, and therefore your relationships.

Because we’re comfortable with those we’re closest to, we may be less aware of our actions, words, and even tone of voice. That’s why the effects of stress can manifest here first and more dramatically than in other areas.

So, how do you know if stress is really affecting your relationship?

Take a look at some of these signs and see if any of them seem familiar.

  • You’ve become a contrarian. Disagreeing with everything your partner says and taking an oppositional stance to any expressed opinion means you’ve become a contrarian. Assuming this isn’t a typical component of your personality, then it’s likely stress is affecting your response.
  • Intimacy is rushed or nonexistent. One clear effect of stress is the inability to focus and concentrate. Physical intimacy requires both partners to be in the moment and focused on each other. If you’re rushing through things, unable to enjoy intimacy, or have lost interest in it altogether, this may be a result of stress.
  • Inappropriate anger response. Did your partner purchase the wrong brand of toilet paper 3 days ago and you haven’t spoken to them since? Being quick to anger, or having a disproportionate anger response, can create unnecessary conflict, according to research from 2018. This is a common way stress can present in a relationship.
  • You’ve become paranoid. Second guessing your partner, assuming they’re doing things behind your back, or suspecting them of sabotaging you, are all very damaging. They’re also behaviors that are potentially a reaction to stress.
  • Your partner is suddenly irritating. Does the sound of their laugh suddenly seem shrill? Or, maybe you can’t handle the way they hum when they’re cooking anymore. When your partner’s regular habits threaten to push you over the edge, stress may be to blame.
  • You want to be alone — a lot. If you’re irritated by other people, especially your partner, disinterested in what they have to say, or quick to anger, why would you want to be around them? Research from 2014 suggests that one of the effects of stress is the desire to withdraw from everyone, including your partner.
  • You’re unhappy. While you once enjoyed being with this person, you haven’t felt the same way for some time.

These aren’t all the ways stress can affect your relationship, but they’re some of the most common.

If you recognize these signs and you’re ready to make changes, there are a few tips you can try right now to improve things.

  • Identify what’s causing stress. You can’t deal with something you haven’t identified. Try to make a conscious effort to name your stressors. It’s possible you may be missing something.
  • Talk with your partner. If stress is affecting your relationship, consider having a conversation with your partner. It’s important that they understand what’s going on, so the divide between you doesn’t widen.
  • The current method isn’t working — try a new one. Many people keep doing the same things to manage stress, even if they’re not working. If stress is affecting your relationship then what you’re doing may not — or has stopped — working. It may be time for a new approach.
  • Look for a new perspective. Sometimes stress is amplified by the angle from which you’re viewing it. In addition to talking with your partner, try talking with a trusted friend or family member as well to get a different viewpoint. You can also try taking an objective view on your own to see how your various stressors compare to the bigger picture.

The effects of stress are the worst when the stressors remain unidentified, are ignored, or are kept secret. These conditions allow the stress to manage you rather than you managing the stress.

If you’ve tried to reduce the effects of stress on you and your relationship and nothing’s improved, consider that it may be time to seek help.

Stress can have mental and physical effects. Sometimes you just can’t do it all by yourself — at least not effectively.

Consider seeking help from someone who specializes in stress management, if you’ve been feeling

  • overwhelmed
  • unable to manage your emotions
  • on the edge
  • overly fatigued
  • incapable of concentrating or focusing

Sometimes it takes learning new ways to manage stress to reduce its damaging effects.

Try to watch out for the common tendency to minimize stress. Yes, we all feel stressed at times. But stress that’s having a negative effect on you can be managed. You don’t have to just accept it — you can get some help instead.

Everyone experiences stress. But overlooking or trying to explain away the effects of stress can lead to even bigger problems.

Stress can affect you mentally and physically. Over time, the effects of stress can even spill over into your relationships.

If you’ve noticed that the habits you once adored in your partner are now annoying, or that you’d rather be alone than with them, stress may be the culprit.

Working with your partner (and a mental health professional if needed) can help you gain perspective and manage stress more effectively.

You’re not alone. Being proactive and communicating with your partner can go a long way.