You experience stress nearly every day of your life. Stress can come from your job, your coworkers, fellow commuters, and generally from having too much to do without enough time to do it. And anyone in a relationship knows how easy it for that “external” stress to find its way into their romantic relationship.
Researchers followed 80 couples’ over 4 years and found that when couple members reported more stress outside of their relationship, they also reported feeling less comfortable depending on their partners and felt less close and more unsure about their relationship compared to couple members who were less stressed.1 This type of stress “spillover” may also occur on a daily basis. In a study of 165 newly married couples, individuals who reported more daily stress also reported more negative relationship behaviors such as criticizing their partners.2 These results indicate that stress from outside a relationship can spillover and cause more negative relationship behaviors. But, it’s also possible that those more prone to stress are also more prone to having poor relationships. An experiment would be needed to determine if stress directly affects relationships.