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5 Ways Stress Hurts Relationships and What to Do About It

Prolonged stress dulls our receptivity to intimate connection. We forget how to love or let love in. We lose our ability to feel, to think, and to act, in cherishing ways and inadvertently push the people we most care about away.

Stress is sensory overload.

Love, at its best, is sensory openness.

Our senses — touch, smell, taste, seeing, hearing, and intuition — are how we experience ourselves and others.

When we are stressed, we lose access to our senses, and therefore lose our ability to connect intimately, and our partners may give up in frustration.

1. When We Lose “Touch”

We lose access to our sense that is our weakest link first. If it is touch, we are no longer able to differentiate whether a physical connection will be demanding or healing.

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We encase ourselves in an invisible bubble, shutting the world out in order to cope. If our partner relies on touch to feel loved, we inadvertently send the message that we no longer care.


2. When We Lose Emotional Availability

When we are stressed, behaviors that would normally be slightly irritating feel like major disruptions. The more protective part of your brain is in fight-flight mode, ready to react or disconnect at a moment’s notice.

You’re tired and wired and any emotional request from your partner is overwhelming. Innocent questions like, “How are you, sweetheart?” bring out irritated reactions: “How do you think I feel? I’m overloaded. Isn’t that obvious?”

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Anger is easy, and patience is in short supply. You’re aware that you’re reacting poorly, so you promise yourself you’ll be better as soon as “things let up.”


3. When Our Thoughts Are Scrambled

When our frontal lobes have been uncharacteristically scrambling to sort ideas and resolve problems, we are unable to share our thoughts with our partners.

Our partners, who are used to solving problems together, offer suggestions, hints and support. But because our thinking is off-kilter, we can’t trust outside interference as it further confuse us.

We invalidate the offers and make our partners feel stupid or inappropriate: “Can’t you see I’m trying to figure something out? If I need help, I’ll ask you.” Your partner is justifiably hurt, rejected, or offended.

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4. When Our 5 Senses Suffer

Some of us lose access to enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of life.

A partner who hasn’t showered smells sexy when you’re balanced, but offensive when you’re stressed. A restaurant can’t be enjoyed because food just ends hunger, it doesn’t awaken the taste buds. Our vision and hearing narrows and we can only focus on solving the immediate problem ahead. We can’t listen to stories or details or day’s events, nor see beyond what’s stressing us out.

For example, when we come home stressed and sleepless, and our partner has prepared our favorite dinner, we can’t see it. We stare directly ahead and focus on something mundane: “Where’s that folder I left on the counter? It was right here. Did you throw it out for God’s sake?”

Our partner will either try to anticipate our every move to avoid being stung, or will write us off impossible to be satisfied.


5. When Intuition Loses Insight

Intuition is one of our most crucial capabilities to loving and being loved. The special glances, warm affectionate sounds, and open arms easily fall prey when someone is preoccupied with prolonged worry about something else. We can only pick up subtle facial expressions, voice intonations, and body language when we’re tuned in.

Prolonged stress depletes a relationship of its most important components: present-time deep attentiveness and the ability to live in one another’s hearts.

Stressed-out people cannot maintain those gifts. They forget how to love or allow love to penetrate their preoccupied and pressured world. That disconnect from their own inner experiences transfers into becoming separate from the one they love.


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Dr. Randi Gunther
In her 40-year-career as a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, She Had Spent Over 100,000 face-to-face hours with singles and couples helping them to sort out their desires and conflicts about intimate relationships. She Had explored all the reasons why their relationships so often start out euphoric only to crumble and how they can turn those disappointments into future successes. She truly believe that the greatest obstacles standing between you and the love you want is often right before your eyes but you are unable to envision the journey. Her specialty is to help you look at yourself and your relationships with heroic honesty and the willingness to look deeply at yourself and what you bring to a relationship so that you can finally create the kind of transformation that will change you forever. You'll finally understand why you've struggled in love, and what skills you'll need to create the kind of relationship you've always wanted - one in which you fall deeper in love while simultaneously scaling the heights of your individual potential. It's how her husband and She have made their marriage their bedrock for over 60 years. Subscribe to her free advice newsletter at where she'll tell you everything she has learned about finding and keeping a truly heroic relationship.
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