Sometimes, external pressures can be the greatest threat to healthy relationships. When one or both individuals experience work-related stress it can create rifts that wouldn’t be there otherwise. At the end of an especially trying day, it’s not unusual to have a short fuse, but oftentimes our loved ones become the recipient of our frustrations. The question is: are you better off keeping your work stress bottled up, or should you get it all out for your partner to hear? It turns out the answer may not be so simple.   

How to use your relationship as a work stress reducer. 

Talking through work issues can be a healthy way to unwind. Beyond that, however, getting your loved one’s point of view may also help you put issues into perspective and find alternate solutions for managing challenging circumstances in the office. Plus, keeping your partner clued in about the major goings on in your life is simply a good practice for supporting a healthy relationship. After all, if your loved one knows you’re going through a particularly difficult time at work, they may take a more understanding approach with smaller things that could arise in your own relationship on a day-to-day basis, like forgetting to take the trash out.  

The possible pitfall with talking about stress is to over-share-or to engage in what we call unbridled self-expression.  It can quickly become one-sided. If one spouse acts as a sounding board and never gets the chance to talk about what’s affecting them in their daily life, they may begin to feel unappreciated. It’s therefore important to make sure that de-stressing is shared, and that each individual has the chance to say their piece while their significant other listens with interruption.  

Combating Work Frustrations in a Healthy Way 

It’s also important to remember that each person is different. For some people, the commute home can be just as stressful as the work day itself. For them, as well as people who work from home, there may be limited opportunities to decompress. Most people need some time and space to unwind.  

If you or your partner needs some alone time to shift out of work mode and into home mode, be sure to be open minded about that.  Hitting the gym, taking a hot shower, and sometimes just cooking a meal can be great ways to de-stress, and they don’t have to be done together. In fact, some people need solo time to process the day’s events before they can talk about them.  

It’s a good idea to lay some ground rules for work talk. For example, consider making a point to always greet your loved one with a hug before diving into a serious conversation. After all, even if work-related complaints aren’t directed at the other person, they can feel combative to their recipient. Starting the evening off with a loving ritual allows you to regroup and remember this person is on your side, not your boss’s.  As the listener it’s equally important to take the stance of being on your partner’s side-even if it stains credibility.  Being on your partner’s side is a better place to be than being right at your partner’s emotional expense.  

You might also consider establishing a designated time or place for work talk. Having a specific end-of-day routine in place can prevent all of your conversations from revolving around work, while still providing the opportunity for your partner to help clear your head.  

If work stress has seeped into your marriage and you need help getting back on track, allow Chuck Beardsley, LCSW to help. Serving the Mountainside and Union County, NJ community, this counselor specializes in helping couples establish and maintain healthy rituals and communication skills. Learn more about his approach to couples’ counseling here or call (908) 274-3189 to set up an appointment.