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Being supportive in stressful times

The surprising benefits of helping your partner when they need it most

How do you and your partner fare when stress enters the relationship?

Does the stress become a source of conflict and contention? Do you tend to fight more? Do you tend to withdraw from one another and feel more disconnected, frustrated, sad or angry?

Or does the stress become an opportunity for you and your partner to draw closer? Where you find ways of supporting, comforting and caring for each other. And you put the other’s needs ahead of yours, no matter how challenging the situation.

Stress can cause considerable levels of irritability, anxiety, fatigue and other negative consequences. And it shows up in our actions, our behavior and in our verbal and non-verbal cues. So inevitably, it impacts both partners and the relationship. But the way in which you handle your partner’s stress can be a determining factor in which direction your relationship ultimately goes.

When we allow stress to control and overwhelm the state of our connection with our partners, it can create a sense of tension and disconnection. And if that is perpetuated, it can lead to a distant relationship, drained of the love, passion and joy that were once shared.

But when we routinely provide our partners with the emotional support they need, we can create a new depth of love in the relationship. Because as ironic as it may seem, when stress makes your partner more ornery, argumentative, or distant, that is when he or she needs you to show up the most. And aside from the inherent good derived from exhibiting patience, understanding and support, acting as a stress reliever can ultimately bring a number of unexpected benefits both to your partner and the relationship itself.

A recent study conducted by the American Psychological Association showed that those who said they have someone they can lean on for emotional support report lower stress levels and better related outcomes than those without emotional support. They are also less likely to say their stress levels increased over the past year, and less likely to let stress get in the way of making positive lifestyle changes.

Providing emotional support can also help your partner maintain a more positive outlook at work. A study conducted by Florida State University professor Wayne Hochwarter revealed that “employees with high levels of stress but strong spousal support had 25% higher rate of concentration levels at work compared to those without the solid spousal backing.” They were also “33% more likely to have positive relationships with their colleagues and had a 20% higher level of job satisfaction compared to their peers.”

On top of work-related benefits, those with strong spousal support also experienced a number of personal bonuses. They reported 50% higher rates of satisfaction with their relationships, a 25% lower rate of post-work fatigue and 25% more likely to be satisfied with the amount of time spent with their children.

At the end of the day, we can’t control whether or not our partner experiences stress or to what degree. The only thing we can control is ourselves: our actions, our reactions, the choices we make in our relationships each and every day. But by embracing the power you bring to creating the dynamic in your relationship, you can help turn a negative situation into a force for positive change.

Header image © MonkeyBusinessImages/Shutterstock

Kerry Song

Kerry Song is a writer and producer with a background in economics and finance. Her passion is to create meaningful content that engages and empowers the audience to become more mindful and more compassionate with themselves and with others.

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