There are no two ways around it… being apart from the one person you most want to be spending time with is stressful. Learning to communicate well and stay connected across distance is stressful. And there are plenty of other things that pop up in life that are stressful, too.
Dentists, anyone? Exams? Driving in LA?
Is stress always bad for us?
Don’t get me wrong, stress is not always bad for us.
Without some pressure in our lives, we stagnate. We need some challenges in life to help focus us, motivate us, and keep us stretching, learning, and growing.
However, too much stress can overwhelm us—at least temporarily.
Most of us in long distance relationships have experienced times when we felt close to breaking or completely overwhelmed.
And what do we tend to do when we feel stressed and overwhelmed?
We often reach for things that bring us comfort (familiar foods and routines). Or escape into entertainment or games. Or try to avoid the things that are stressing us out.
We often to spend all our “coping energy” on what we need to do to get through the day, and then take out our fatigue and frustrations on those closest to us.
How stress impacts your relationship
Many couples communicate quite well when life’s skies are sunny and it is all smooth sailing. However, when clouds roll in and the wind picks up, it can be a different story.
When your or your partner (or both) are tired and stressed, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise as quickly as summer storms.
You might find yourself getting annoyed more easily. Or arguing more frequently. Or speaking to your partner in a curt, impatient tone you’d never use on a work colleague.
On the other side of the coin, you can find yourselves confused and frustrated by your partner moods, words, and actions. You can feel helpless to know how to approach them (especially if you’re far apart), or what to do or say.
Either way, the very relationship that you count on to help sustain you can become another draining source of tension, right when you need help the most.
How to stop stress destroying your relationship
One of the best things you can do to make these times easier is to discuss these dynamics with your partner when you are not tired or stressed.
The better you understand how each of you typically thinks or feels during times of stress and pressure, the better you will be able to encourage and support each other during those extra-stressful times. Yes, even if you’re far apart.
Answer these questions
Here are 10 questions you can talk over with your partner.
These questions are designed to help you learn more about how each of you responds to stress and pressure. Take your time with these and really delve into the details! Discussing these questions on good days (before you’re all stressed out) will yield big dividends on bad days. I promise.
- What are the biggest sources of stress or pressure in your life right now?
- Where is the biggest mismatch in your life right now between what you believe and how you are acting?
- Do you feel “out of balance” in any area of life right now? What are those areas?
- When you feel stressed, how does that show up in how you interact with other people?
- When you are under pressure, what are some of your “early warning” signs of stress?
- When you become aware of your early warning signs, what do you do to help prevent your stress from growing?
- What are some of your typical self-care and coping strategies when you are stressed, tired, or anxious? (Make sure you think about coping strategies you use that are “good for you,” and those that “aren’t so good for you.”)
- What are one or two things that help you manage stress and pressure that you want to be able to do more often?
- When you are struggling, how can your partner best help you? What are good ways to approach you and good questions to ask you when you’re stressed?
- Since caring for yourself is foundational to being able to care well for your important relationships, how can your partner encourage you to take care of yourself?
How do you deal with stress in your long distance relationship?
How do you help your partner when they are stressed?
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