Ideally, when people enter the workforce, they hope to find jobs that will challenge them and utilize their potential without demanding too much from them on a physical, personal and mental level. Unreasonable work expectations can cause extreme stress that spills over into other areas of life. If work-related stress has led to or contributed to dysfunction in your romantic relationships, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know about the effects of work-related stress on your marriage or partnership and how to mitigate them.

Causes of work-related stress

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines job stress as a negative physical and/or emotional response to not having the capabilities and resources to meet the requirements of a job.  This stress can become cyclical and contribute to problems outside of the workplace. According to NIOSH, here are several reasons that job stress occurs:
  • Overwhelming workload, few or infrequent breaks, long hours or irregular shifts
  • Management style; policies that don’t support work/life balance, poor communication between leadership and employees or lack of participation in decision-making by subordinates
  • Poor camaraderie between coworkers
  • Having too many responsibilities or unclear/confusing job duties
  • Career concerns; lack of room for advancement within a company or field or job insecurity
  • Environmental conditions, such as a dangerous work setting
Workplace stress is a serious issue. In addition to the physical and mental toll of stress, people often bring the pressure of high demands at work home with them, affecting their interpersonal relationships.

How workplace stress can impact a marriage

Unfortunately, when we’re under stress, it tends to affect those closest to us. For married or cohabiting couples, it’s inevitable that the emotional life of one partner will at times spill over and affect the other. There are certainly perks to sharing emotional closeness. Spouses can lean on one another for support during stressful times. On the other hand, however, hardships at work can cause secondhand stress for the other spouse or create tension in the relationship. There are various ways that work-related stress can manifest in a marriage. You may find yourself shutting down in response to significant strain, causing emotional distance between you and your loved one. When communication lines are down, it can be hard for your spouse to show support or understand your situation. Moreover, workplace stress can cause you to project your troubles onto your partner, resulting in arguments, lashing out and hurt feelings. If you have found yourself responding out of anger with small provocations in your marriage, it’s possible workplace tension is the culprit. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that both husbands and wives’ experiences of total stress during the course of a workday were linked with an increased likelihood of marital conflict on the same day. The conflicts tended to be greater when both spouses were experiencing high levels of stress, as opposed to just one partner.

How to handle work-related stress

You may be wondering how to handle workplace stress so that it doesn’t affect your marriage. While it’s easier said than done, there are some concrete steps you can take in the next few days, weeks and months to decrease your stress at work and leave it where it belongs (at the office) so you can have a healthier relationship with your loved one.

Talk about it

The first step toward solving the problem is acknowledging the impact of your work stress on your partner. This opens the conversation to change and keeps you accountable. Neglecting and denying the negative consequences of your work life on your marriage only perpetuates the issue.

Take small measures at work

The best way to manage work stress and relationships is to find small ways to decrease the pressure you face at work. Maybe you’ll need to regulate the amount of time you spend checking your email daily, put your phone away once you clock out, do a meditation on your drive home or take a few vacation days. 

Manage stress at home

A stressful work life can make your home life feel more stressful than it would be under normal circumstances. See if you can work with your spouse to shuffle some chores or find hacks to make daily tasks easier, like grocery pick up, hiring someone to do laundry or start meal planning.

How to mend the impact of stress on a relationship

Healing a marriage wounded by work-related stress is hard work but it’s well worth the effort. It will take the best of your time and energy to reorganize your life so you can keep your priorities in order, but soon you’ll be at ease in your job and your relationship. When you handle the stress at work and at home and have open communication, you’ll be able to rekindle the feelings you shared. These trials will soon stand as a testament of your love for each other.

Taking care of your marriage

Managing work stress and relationships is a balancing act. Trying to control your negative feelings at work without lashing out or shutting down when you get home can be exhausting. If you are experiencing unbearable strain at work, it’s worth analyzing how it has challenged your marriage, too. You can do this all with the assistance of a professional counselor at Mazzitti & Sullivan EAP. Your EAP can help you find healthy ways to decrease and handle work stress so you don’t bring it home with you. Invest in yourself and your marriage today and call 1-800-543-5080 today.
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