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3 Keys to Managing Stress in Your Marriage

Marital stress is unwanted and can seriously harm a relationship if unchecked.

Key points

  • Couples communicate best when they are relaxed and well-rested. Stress interferes by causing irritability and emotional exhaustion.
  • Emotional intimacy in relationships decreases when each partner's desire for intimacy changes due to stress.
  • Chronic stress can lead to physical health problems, further straining an already precarious relationship.
nataliya vatkevich/pexels
Source: nataliya vatkevich/pexels

Stress awareness and stress management are critical in long-term relationships. According to new research, learning to support one another and identify when each other is experiencing stress is important to marriage satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are three specific ways that stress management helps a marriage improve communication, increase intimacy, and enhance physical health.

1. Communication

Stress can negatively impact how spouses interact with each other. Under stress, people typically become more irritable, anxious, or emotionally exhausted. This, in turn, can affect spousal communication and behavior. Romantic partners may also have less patience and be more prone to conflicts.

Stress can also lead to changes in one's emotional state, which can affect their ability to communicate the desires and preferences that are important for a partner to hear clearly. When couples struggle with chronic stress, they may withdraw from each other emotionally and become less effective at sending the right signals to their partners.

2. Intimacy

Stress can lead to a decrease in intimacy between partners. When people are under psychological pressure, they may have less time and energy for shared activities and affection, and they may be more focused on their own stress and concerns rather than on their relationship. Stress can also lead to changes in one's emotional state, which can affect their desire for intimacy.

The critical point is that couples need to find ways to manage stress and support each other during times of anxiety in order to maintain healthy and positive interactions with each other. This can help improve communication and intimacy, thereby protecting the overall health of the relationship.

3. Physical Health

Chronic stress can have a negative impact on physical health. It can weaken the immune system, making you more susceptible to illnesses such as the common cold and flu. It can also lead to physical health problems, such as:

  1. Headaches: Stress can cause tension headaches or migraines.
  2. Digestive problems: Stress can cause or exacerbate digestive issues such as acid reflux, stomach ulcers, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  3. Heart problems: Chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  4. Sleep problems: Stress can disrupt your sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or other sleep disorders.
  5. Weight gain or loss: Stress can cause changes in appetite and metabolism, leading to weight gain or loss.

In addition, stress can lead to physical health problems, such as problems sleeping, which can further decrease communication and intimacy between partners. Many of us need to do a better job of taking care of ourselves physically. This can include activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and seeking support from friends and loved ones.


It is important for couples to find ways to manage unwanted stress and to support each other in critical aspects of marriage. Three key areas are improving communication, increasing intimacy, and protecting overall physical health.

©2023 Kevin Bennett, Ph.D. All rights reserved.


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Bennett, K., Gualtieri, T., & Kazmierczyk, B. (2018). Undoing solitary urban design: A review of risk factors and mental health outcomes associated with living in social isolation. Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, 4:7.

Vorbach, L., & Bennett, K. (2020). Cortisol affords immediate action and alertness. In Shackelford, T.K., & Weekes‐Shackelford, V.A. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

Vorbach, L., & Bennett, K. (2020). Stress and cortisol. In Shackelford, T.K., & Weekes‐Shackelford, V.A. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham.

Neff, L. A., & Buck, A. A. (2022). When Rose-Colored Glasses Turn Cloudy: Stressful Life Circumstances and Perceptions of Partner Behavior in Newlywed Marriage. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 0 (0).

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