3 Of The Most Stressful Events In Relationships — And How To Survive Them

Stress is a major part of any long-term relationship, from that “meet the parents” moment to losing a job or suffering a serious illness — and these events can put a strain on relationships. What you may not know, though, is that researchers have actually found a way to quantify just how hard different life events are to cope with.

Known as the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, this survey assigns a specific value to different life events. These values can be used for varying purposes, but for couples these rankings can provide a clear sense of whether you’re facing a high degree of stress as a couple or if you’re sailing through smooth waters. Based on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, then, these 3 events are among the most stressful any couple can face — but forewarned is forearmed. Knowing that these events will put pressure on your life together as a couple can help you strategize together to navigate them with grace.

Getting Married

One of the most important things that the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory emphasizes is that stress doesn’t just come from negative events; wonderful events like marriage or the birth of a child can also strain a relationship. That’s because stress is actually a measure of social readjustment, as opposed to simply a way of measuring distress and anxiety. As such, marriage is one of the most stressful events that individuals can go through — it’s ranked 7th on a list of 43 major events — and couples should be prepared for this adjustment.

Even if you’ve already been living together for years before getting married, marriage creates new expectations and formalizes what was before an informal commitment. It may be worth talking to a couple’s therapist in the months before and after your wedding so that you have support during this time of transition. Even just knowing that marriage can disrupt an otherwise happy relationship will help you be more conscious of how you talk to each other and foster your partnership during that time.

Death In The Family

It should come as no surprise that any significant death in the family, whether of a parent or other close relative or even the death of a child, can put a major strain on a relationship. In fact, the death of a child is paired with the death of a spouse as the most difficult thing that can happen to a person, while other major losses come in at number five.

When dealing with a loss in the family, one principal that can really help everyone navigate the process is the ring theory. Ring theory applies to a variety of stressful life events and it says that when someone is going through a difficult time, such as death or illness, comfort is funneled in towards those most closely affected, and complaints travel outward towards the least impacted parties. This ensures that those who are grieving most deeply aren’t burdened by others’ distress. Partners can play an important role in enforcing this rule.

Serious Illness Or Injury

Finally, coming in at number 6 on the Holmes-Rahe scale is any type of serious illness or injury in the family. It doesn’t have to be yours or your partner’s; it might be a child or other close family member. Illness can come with major changes to caregiving structures, earning ability, and even mood and personality. As with a death in the family, ring theory can help ensure that everyone’s emotional needs are being met during this time. Therapy, both individual and couples, can also be helpful when dealing with life-altering illnesses.

It may be surprising that something like getting married is considered to be more stressful than having your home go into foreclosure or even having problems with your in-laws, but the fact is that we struggle with change. It’s part of being human and one that we’re all regularly forced to reckon with. When we realize that stress is primarily a matter of adjustment, not of resolution, though, couples are better able to support each other and find ways to manage the situation. We expect kids to go through a period of adjustment when a major event happens, like starting school or experiencing the birth of a sibling, and we should give ourselves the same grace.

If you’re worried that stress is taking a toll on your relationship, developing better communication habits may help. Join Emi today to learn more about how simple actions can transform your relationship. Whie you can’t eliminate stress, as a couple you can work your way through it together.