Anxiety, Articles by Jacqueline McDiarmid, Family counselling, Relationships

Is lack of time stressing your relationship?


In the Eastern Suburbs where I work I see a lot of couples who come in and talk about the stress they are under as a couple and the lack of time they have for each other due to – well – a lack of time. Of course, this is the case in all parts of Sydney. Living in an expensive city means that most couples have a big
mortgage or rent to pay. As a result, both people often need to work. And if you have children you are essentially working three jobs – one job each
and the parenting job – a full time career in itself.

Now let’s say we throw in a situation where one of the children is challenging or has special needs. This could be emotional or physical one but whatever
it is, it always means more time and energy required from the parents to manage this.

And then perhaps we could add on expectations or stress from extended family members. Even just one problematic family member – like a mother-in-law or
sibling – to further squeeze the couple and increase the stress levels.

And what about friends? How do we maintain our friendships and continue to be a “good friend” to others who also need us or who may also require attention
or support at different times? How do we keep up with a social life so that we don’t lose ourselves altogether to parenting or work roles.

As you are reading I am sure you can think of a lot of other external stresses that you as a couple are living with. 

External stresses cause big problems for couples and their relationships. Most couples I see struggle with how to be a good parent, work colleague, friend
and partner to their partner.

Couples often underestimate the impact of external stress on their connection and closeness.

The stress on a relationship often leads to conflict and resentment. Couples tend to take external stresses out on the other one instead of pulling each
other close. But we can’t usually make all of the external stresses go away so what do we do as a couple?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Have a discussion about boundaries. Do you as a couple have a boundary around your sub system? This means that certain information and communication
    should be limited to your couple system – not shared with the wider system (your family/friends/community). It also positions your relationship
    at the top of your communication priorities, strengthening your closeness and connection and ultimately your resources to deal with external stress.
  1. Make time for you as a couple. Sometimes you may need to say no despite external pressures of “you should be at this dinner” (family) or “I haven’t
    seen you for ages” (friend).
  1. Limit the time you spend either individually or as a couple with people who are either toxic or take too much energy away from you. If you are not
    energised as a person or a couple after spending time with others, it’s a sign they are not good for you – if it’s not good for you it’s not good
    for your relationship.
  1. Scheduling works for busy couples with children. Many couples I see say they would like to be more spontaneous. However, the fact remains that living
    in a big city with children and careers means that most people find that if they don’t schedule they never actually have time with each other –
    and if you don’t schedule, your friends and family are certainly going to do it to you!
  1. Look for extra help to give you each more time to relax to build up your resources. This will also help with freeing up time for your relationship.
    This might mean paying for a babysitter, cleaner, or other home help. View this as an investment in your relationship with the return being the
    closeness you will enjoy as a couple.
  1. Get on the same parenting page and support each other in disciplining and parenting your child. A sense of teamwork helps.
  1. Look for signs your partner is struggling and build in some extra support for them. This says they are important to you. That you value your partner.
    For example, offering to take over a task or offering a sleep in.
  1. Make time to look at your partner and listen to what their complaints are. And if you find yourself going over your own complaints endlessly – just
    stop. This can be because of habit rather than it being a real complaint. If it’s a real complaint unheard you and your partner have some communication
    work to do.
  1. Ensure you are meeting the needs of your relationship and your children before you are meeting the needs of your friends and extended family.
  1. When you are feeling resentment or are arguing about an external stressor with your partner – Ask yourselves if you are taking out external stresses
    on your partner.

Of course all of this is easier said than done. What can couples’ counselling offer you when it comes to working through stress in your life? A good Couples
Therapist will help you identify what the stresses are and help you come up with solutions to those stresses. A relationship Therapist will also help
you create good appropriate boundaries around your relationship. Many newly committed couples struggle with how to prioritise their relationship when
they are perhaps used to attending to their single life priorities.

If communication is a problem, then your Therapist can help you develop news ways of discussing these stresses as they arise.

This kind of work is suitable for couples who are just about to marry or are newly married / committed couples. Or for couples who are about to have their
first child or have young children. This is because these are the key times when external stresses can really start to impact a couple.

If you would like help with managing this stage of your life or the pressures that are showing up in your relationship please contact us now on 02 8968 9397.
We can help you within a few short sessions.

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