Stress From Work – Relationships Are at Risk From Work Stress
When we’re experiencing stress from work, we’re often irritable, and when we walk in the door at home it’s difficult to shed the bad mood leftover from the workplace. In fact, many marriage arguments can be blamed on this problem. Imagine this scene: After a difficult day of work stress, you walk in the door at home. You were ten minutes late meeting a difficult deadline because the person responsible for sending you the necessary data was in meetings all day. Your boss yelled at you. When you arrive at home, your spouse asks you, “What’s for dinner?” And you snap as easily as a branch in a windstorm. An argument between the two of you follows.
Scientists have found that marital satisfaction and satisfaction at work are related to each other and that arguments with coworkers and work stress can lead to conflict with your honey as well. In one study, husbands reported becoming more withdrawn from their spouses after a stressful day at work, whereas wives in the same situation tended to lose their tempers with their romantic partners. In another study, husbands and wives reported greater marital anger and withdrawal following negative interactions with coworkers. Women seemed to feel more pressure from a heavy workload than their husbands, reporting greater marital anger and withdrawal on days that they were bombarded with a large amount of work.
After a hard day at work, it’s important to take a deep breath and realize it’s not your partner’s fault your coworkers took out their bad mood on you. Or that your boss criticized you all day long and your lunch disappeared out of the company refrigerator. Staying calm and relaxed after a difficult day can be challenging. But here are some tips to stop work stress from intruding upon your home life.
Separate Work Stress from the Relationship
Ask yourself: Am I really angry with my partner? Or am I stressed over something else that’s happening in my life? Peter and Gloria, a couple I know, are pros at recognizing when work stress and family stress is intruding upon their marriage. Through the years, Peter has learned to subdivide his relationship with Gloria into three parts: 1) The daily issues he deals with separate from his relationship with Gloria–his family, his career. 2) The problems Gloria faces on her own. 3) The issues within their own relationship.
“If I know that she’s having a hard time dealing with her father’s illness or she’s really frustrated with work–that is outside the relationship,” says Peter, “and that is not something to draw into our relationship.”
Gloria agrees. “We know not to take it personally.”
By acquiring this wisdom, Gloria and Peter saved the upcoming marriage of Gloria’s brother, John, to his fiance, Karen. The scene started as the four of them piled into the car.
“The wedding’s off!” Gloria’s brother screamed.
At the time, John was sick with worry over his father’s cancer, and as a twenty-six-year-old entrepreneur, business pressures also weighed him down. The last thing he needed: his fiance clamoring for attention.
First, Peter turned to John and said, “I don’t want to impede on your relationship, but because of all these external things going on–the stress of your job, your father–you’re taking your frustrations out on the person you love the most. You need to separate all these stressful things from your relationship. Don’t take it out on each other.”
Peter suggested that Karen refrain from pushing her fiance into a confrontation. Leave him alone to deal with his problems, Peter told her. Give him as much space as he needs.
Thanks to Peter’s advice, the wedding was back on.
“A lot of outside factors can destroy a relationship,” says Gloria. “The most important thing to remember is allow that person the space to really think about what it is that’s affecting him. As John is stressed out about my dad’s illness and his job, Karen’s going, ‘What’s wrong with us? I need more attention,’ and it’s only stressing him out more. He can’t fight the cancer, he can’t really fight his job, but he can fight her.”
Ask: Am I Working Too Hard?
Another question to ask yourself: Am I working too hard? Researchers have noticed that marital satisfaction drops in dual-career relationships where both members of the couple are extensively involved in their work–in other words, the couples who were more involved in their careers were less satisfied with their marriage. Yes, you need to earn money to help pay the mortgage and it’s perfectly okay to be passionate about your career, but could the two of you devote at least one night per week to date night?
Find Ways to Reduce Stress from Work
Denny and Phoebe King know firsthand the effect stress from work can have on a marriage or relationship. When Denny’s job relocated him and Phoebe to another town, the resulting stress nearly ended their marriage. The Kings now take steps to alleviate stress before it can enter their lives and taint their relationship. They watch their diets and they exercise. And they help others through volunteering in the community.
“That is a great way for people to get a totally different view of what’s going on in the world,” says Denny. “You give something back to other people, and you feel good about it. That’s one way to help reduce stress.”
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