Sometimes, a student’s life closely resembles a master juggler on top of a tight wire, with an iPhone in one hand, texting and uploading pictures to Facebook. Throw in a relationship and the whole thing topples over and breaks into a million pieces. Stress can act like a slow-spreading cancer in a relationship: slowly affecting every aspect until the entire relationship is infected. Yes, you knew what you were getting into, but you may not be totally prepared to handle it. Here are some of our ideas:
- Be supportive. Here at www.loveisrespect.org, we deal with people in stressful situations all the time. When you are talking to your stressed out partner, use a calm voice and let them know you empathize with what they’re going through. When you partner rails against his or her horrible Chemistry 301 TA, saying things like “That must be frustrating for you” and “Wow, this is tough” are going to make them feel like you’re really listening and their feelings are valid. Don’t offer solutions or advice right away- chances are they have already considered your ideas and just need a sounding board about their stressful situation. Watch this to see how Modern Family’s Phil Dunphy learns this.
- Forgive each other. Stress makes people do crazy things. If your partner forgets about your dinner plans or snaps at you in the car, cut them a little slack. Putting more pressure on them to perform in the relationship can make things worse. Letting them know later on, when they are in good spirits, that their misstep hurt your feelings if you need to talk about it will definitely produce a better conversation on both ends.
- Organize, organize, organize. Plan for time together. Even if it’s a 15-minute study break, you will be glad you did it. Schedule studying and other activities around time with your partner; it’s easy for a partner to feel neglected if they have to keep waiting around until you finish your other priorities.
- Do something non-school related together. Blow off some steam by taking a yoga class, joining a biking team or playing on a softball team together. It is possible for stress to make your relationship too intense, so have some fun every once in a while. Having something to talk about besides studying and school can help too.
- Don’t spend all your time together. You will hear a lot of advice that will urge you to study together so you can at least pencil in some time together. Resist the urge. Why would you want to spend four hours with your partner when they are busy doing something else when you can spend an hour together and really connect?
- Talk it out. Communicating what your exam schedule is going to be like or when you have had a terrible day is going to help your partner be patient and forgive you if you seem out of sorts. It feels terrible to not understand why your partner is in a foul mood and just have have to conclude you did something. There is no way your partner can understand your stressful situation if you aren’t telling them.
Remember, though, what is stress-related and what is not. If your partner starts calling you names, threatening you or hurting you physically, this is not the stress, this is your partner. There are certain things that are forgivable and there are certain things that aren’t. We hear a lot on the helpline that abusers are just stressed out and once the stress goes away, the abuse will stop. How do you handle stress and your relationship? What tips do you have for mastering the juggling act of a relationship during a busy time?
*Photo courtesy of swanksalot