Articles by Alex Ryder, Communication, Conflict, Couple's counselling, Couples, Listen, Mental Health, priorities, Relationships, stress, Trust

The Damaging Effects of Stress on Your Relationship – 11 Antidotes

Stress is one of the most common ingredients in a relationship when couples come to see me for couples counselling.


If you missed the article I wrote on recognising stress in your relationship and the damage it can do, you can read it here first.

So what do you do if you or your partner is stressed, and it is affecting your relationship?

If you recognise stress in your relationship, here are some antidotes to help improve both your health and the health of your relationship.

  1. Learn to recognise stress – noticing stress in your relationship is the crucial first step. Stress is so common in our lives today we barely notice it, and even tend to notice it more when it’s absent. It is important to recognise stress because once you notice it, you now have choices. It no longer has the same level of control over you or your relationship. If you don’t know how to recognise stress in your relationship learn about how to do that here.
  1. Practice self-soothing – Self-soothing means managing your stress to relieve the feeling of anxiety. Find out what works for you. Could it be:
    1. Exercise
    2. Music
    3. Breathing
    4. Progressive muscle relaxation
    5. Mediation or mindfulness
    6. Define your fears – write down the worst thing that could happen. What can you do to mitigate that? What’s outside your control? Are you willing to accept that possibility in order to feel better?
    7. Question your perspective – Stress is correlated with having a more meaningful life (1). So it is not stress itself, but how we deal with stress that is important. Could the stressful situation actually be a great opportunity when viewed from a long-term lens over the course of your life?
  1. Communicate – sharing a stressful problem with your partner does not burden them, it helps them understand why you are acting the way you are, and can enlist their support if you are brave enough to ask for it. This builds a feeling of we-ness.
  1. Accept your partner’s methods – allow your partner to deal with the stressful problem they are facing in their way. The best help you can give your intimate partner is not to solve the problem for them but rather join their team and support them in solving it the way they would like to.
  1. Eat well, sleep well and get exercise – you know this is important. What small amount of exercise could you do today to start the momentum?
  1. Exercise together – Sex may decrease when there is stress in the relationship. Releasing endorphins together in other ways will make you feel closer again. For the same reason, exciting dates work well too. Try a rock climbing lesson or trapeze, for example.
  1. Sooth your partner – find out how your partner likes to deal with stress and support them. If they like to exercise for example, support them to prioritise that into their schedule. If they don’t know what works for them, help them practice some of the ways that work for you.
  1. Protect your relationship – one of the key tells that stress is affecting your relationship is a decline in the quality of your communication. A good indicator of this is if you are noticing any of the following communication behaviours: Criticism (attacking character), Defensiveness (avoiding responsibility and blaming your partner), Contempt (feeling superior) or Stonewalling (cutting off or shutting down). These behaviours, if left unchecked, predict divorce with 83% accuracy (2). If you notice any of those damaging behaviours showing up in your relationship then take active steps to evict them. Relationship counselling can assist here. It is crucial these behaviours aren’t allowed to continue.
  1. Schedule Us time – allocate a window of 90mins at least once a week that is time for the two of you to spend together without distractions. It could be a date. It could be a walk. It just needs to be time for the two of you, to the exclusion of other people, devices and stressors. More great ideas on prioritising your relationship is in this article from earlier this year.
  1. Clarify your work boundaries – When things are really busy at work it is important to clarify time during the day that work will not be part of. Be careful not to make the mistake of thinking that you can ignore your health or your relationship, in favour of your work, and think they will be recoverable later. They will generally take more work to recover than your career if you let them slip.
  1. Ask for help – Your primary relationship will not necessarily be able to meet all the demands you make of it. The support of a relationship therapist can help you both deal with the problem at hand and work out ways to reduce stress in the relationship.

Stress in a relationship is a very common cause of conflict and distancing between partners. It causes us to be reactive and defensive rather than showing empathy and building connection with our partner. Try out some of the techniques in this article to reduce stress and minimise the damage it might be doing to your relationship.

If poor communication, conflict or distance has become common in your relationship, a relationship counsellor can help you and your partner get back on track. Call Sydney Couple and Family Specialists today on 02 8968 9397.

About Alex

Alex is an accessible and compassionate therapist.  His clients appreciate that Alex listens with the intention of genuinely understanding them.  He’s lovely with adolescents, who seem to warm to him

immediately, and he creates a space in sessions for any or all participants to have their say and feel heard.

Alex’s particular strengths are in the area of working with couples and he has extensive experience and training in this area.  He is both Gottman and Systemically trained and draws on practical ideas that clients can immediately make use of to enhance their relationships.

Alex comes to Sydney Couple and Family Therapy Specialists from backgrounds as a Lifeline Crisis Line Counsellor and Trainer and Therapist at the highly-respected Jansen Newman Institute.  He has supported individuals and couples through trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and adolescent struggles.

Alex has helped many people through intensely frightening and painful life events – and to a place where they have the skills and confidence to carry themselves forward.

Alex is married with a young family and therefore easily relates to the stress and struggles that many couples and young families face today.

“It takes a lot of courage to share a moment of crisis with someone you don’t yet know.  Even more so, to entrust your intimate relationship over to them.

I have been in the fortunate position to be trusted with that responsibility many times and have helped people – through their own bravery, honesty and effort – to transcend their suffering and improve their key relationships.”

Alex also runs the pre-marriage counselling course at the Sydney Couple and Family Specialists

Qualifications and Professional Membership

Alex holds a Masters of Counselling and Psychotherapy from Jansen Newman Institute Sydney, and a Bachelor degree from the University of Sydney.  Alex also holds a Gottman training certificate.

He is a member of the Australian Association of Family Therapy, the Counsellors and Psychotherapist Association of Australia, and the Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia.

Why see a Couples Counselor?

Are you wondering if couples counselling is for you? In this interview Alex Ryder answers common questions we hear from people who want to understand more about this process.

And remember, if you are a new client you can book a free 15 minute telephone session with Alex.

“We really like your approach. The other couples counsellor we saw left us stuck in negativity.  Right from the start we felt hopeful with you.  Your positive approach helped us out of the slump, so we could address the real issues.” – Murry (36) married to Tasha (39); One Child (3) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling.

“I’ve wanted to refer you to so many people.  Obviously I haven’t given the circumstances, but we are huge fans and are so grateful for your help.” – Tom (49) married to Sarah (43). Two children; 15 & 13 – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship counselling following an affair.

“I think we told you in our first session that you were the last couples therapist we were going to try. Everything was on the line.  So thank you for… well everything.” – James (55) married to Philippa (53) – Clients who saw Alex Ryder for Relationship Counselling


[1]Baumeister, R., Vohs, K., Aaker, J. & Garbinsky, E. (2013) Some Key Differences between a Happy Life and a Meaningful Life. Journal of Positive Psychology, 8, 505-516

[2] Gottman, J.,Coan, J., Carrere, S. & Swanson, C. (1998) Preducting Marital Happiness and Stability fro Newlywed Interactions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 60, 5-22

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