by Heather, a loveisrespect Advocate
When we think about stress, we usually think about it as a Really Bad Thing. But in reality, English just doesn’t have the right words to be able to describe good stress, like a roller coaster. In Turkish, for example, there is one word that means both excited and nervous: heyecanlı. This TED Talk explains different kinds of stress, and while stress can definitely affect your health negatively, it doesn’t have to, especially if you can get the support you need from the people you love. So whether you’re heyecanlı because your cat is having surgery or because you’re adopting a new kitty, if what’s going on in your life is adding stress to your romantic relationship(s), take a deep breath, and read on.
Step 1: Communicate the facts
Whatever is going on in your life that is causing you stress, if you want or need help from your partner, they’ll need to know what you’re dealing with. Even the best partners are not mind readers, so you will have to communicate to them (actually say out loud or write to them) what’s up. Expecting your partner to serve in place of a mental health professional or to meet your every need is unrealistic, but you deserve a partner who will try to support you as best as they can while they’re dealing with their own life. If outside stressors in your partner’s life are making them unavailable to support you, consider who else you can lean on, like friends, family, teammates, co-workers, a faith community, a therapist, or the Crisis Text Line. As always, be sure to practice good self-care!
The list of factors that could be stressing you out is endless, but some examples include:
- I have a huge biology test on Friday
- My best friend’s dad was detained by immigration
- My cousin is getting married and I’m in the wedding party
- My brother is hospitalized for anorexia again
- We’re planning a family vacation
- I made the volleyball team
- My therapist is out of town
- My mom says I need to get a job
- I’m planning a surprise party for my sister’s birthday
- I’m starting testosterone injections
- I was elected Class President
- My dad read my journal
- The clinic where my aunt works had a bomb threat
- My grandparents are coming to visit
- My friend thinks they might be pregnant
- I’m waiting to hear back about my college applications
- I accidentally dented my uncle’s car
Step 2: Communicate your feelings
There is no “should” when it comes to feelings, so however you feel about the stress you’re under is ok. Feelings are like reflexes: we can’t control them, we can only control how we behave. Communicating your feelings to your partner, whatever they are, can create a more open, honest and trusting relationship. It’s also a way of taking ownership of your emotions, rather than acting on them and leaving your partner confused about what’s happening. Hopefully talking to your partner about your feelings is something that doesn’t feel difficult, but we know sometimes finding the right words can take work. Some options for expressing how the stressful thing(s) in your life are making you feel could be:
Step 3: Communicate what you need
This may be the toughest piece to figure out, because we don’t always know what we need. Sometimes if we’re stressed out we want someone to act as a sounding board so we can think out a plan of action. Sometimes we just want someone to hold us. Sometimes we need space to be alone and think, or pray, or meditate. Sometimes all we need is someone to validate that, “Yeah, that sucks.” Figuring out what you need from your partner before you tell them what’s stressing you out will help make your communication to them clear. The more clearly you can explain how they can help you, the easier it will be for them to do it. You have every right to set and readjust your boundaries at any point in a relationship, so if you can’t text every hour like you and your partner normally would because you need to be studying, you deserve to ask for that, and a healthy partner will respect and honor your needs. Do be considerate of your partner’s time as well, and if you need to change any plans you have together, try to do that with as much notice as possible.
Step 4: Put it all together
Whether you talk to your partner face-to-face, over the phone, via text, or any other way, think about what you know about their communication style and how they might best receive your news/request. Try to arrange a time to communicate with your partner when they won’t be distracted by other people or things, and when they will be more likely to be able to give you their full attention. Then, go through steps 1, 2, and 3. This could sound like:
- I have a huge biology test on Friday and I’m feeling really overwhelmed. Will you quiz me on these flashcards please?
- My cousin is getting married and I’m in the wedding party. I’m frustrated I have to buy a dress I’m never going to wear again. Can I borrow $100? I’ll pay you back in a month.
- My brother is in the hospital for anorexia again and I’m angry, but I’m scared for him. Can I read you a poem I wrote about him?
- My therapist is out of town and I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety lately. Would it be ok if, instead of playing video games tonight, we just cuddle?
- I’m planning a surprise party for my sister’s birthday. I’m so excited! Will you come, and bring your sister? She has a crush on her.
- I’m waiting to hear back about my college applications and it’s making me nostalgic. I’d like to meet up with my best friend from middle school for coffee tomorrow, so is it cool if we reschedule our date for another night?
Each situation in your life where you need support or help from your partner will be different, so there’s no way to script a response that will work for every kind of stress. You know yourself, your partner, and your relationship best, so trust your instincts, know that your feelings are valid, and that you deserve all the support you need. If you don’t feel like you can express how you feel or what you need to your partner, that’s a big red flag. If you feel like your partner isn’t there for you during tough times, it may be time to reconsider whether your needs are being met in your relationship. We know love isn’t always enough. You deserve to be safe and happy, and you deserve a partner who wants to be with you (and support you) just as much as you want to be with (and support) them.
If you have any concerns or questions about your relationship, our advocates are available 24/7/365 by chat (www.loveisrespect.org), phone (1-866-331-9474) and text (text LOVEIS to 22522)!