Stress has gotten a bad rap. Sometimes it's necessary. Stressful situations trigger physical reactions such as increased adrenalin and our fight or flight response.  We rely on these reactions to help us cope with all kinds of threatening situations, including daily ones. We hit the brakes when we see the car in front of us looming too closely, pay more attention to the location of our wallet or handbag in a crowd and scan walkways for signs of ice patches or broken cement. 

The downside of stress occurs when our stress responses are too frequent, intense or long-lasting. When stress gets out of control, our work, health and love life can suffer, too.

Here is a tip sheet about the links between stress and love.

1.  On your health

The affects of stress on your health can snowball into damaging your relationship. For example, one of the most common coping reactions to stress is to overeat. Weight gain can lead to all kinds of unwanted physical ailments such as heart disease, diabetes and eroded knees. Other common ailments such as reflux or sleep apnea can drain your energy and comfort.

When you become short of breath, tired and achy, you risk becoming a relationship dead zone. You feel too weak, disinterested and depressed for sex and relating in general. Your mood changes, and you can vacillate between being withdrawn and short-tempered.  If you don't get proactive, you could fall into a relationship black hole that is too difficult to escape. 


  • Get a yearly check up and listen to your physicians. 
  • Yes, it's scary to get bad news, but the sooner you hear it, the more chances you have to help yourself and your loved ones. 
  • Remind yourself that avoiding doctors and their advice is a selfish act of cowardice.
  • Recruit a buddy or family member to help you stay on your new course.  I said help--not turn into your portable nag.  The only way to turn down the volume on your buddy's words is to make sure you are fulfilling your part of the responsibility. 

2.  On your work and finances

Unhappy at work, unhappy at home.  In these trying times, it's easy to feel that life's opportunities have passed you by. A common reaction to overwhelming circumstances is to become depressed. Unfortunately, as soon as the depression floodgates are open, its powerful relatives of indecisiveness and fear set in. Soon, helplessness hijacks your resolve and clarity. No choice seems like a good one. 

When you've got lead in your shoes, you've got lead in your heart. Relating can become too difficult. Your anger taints most of your interactions, and your self-loathing at your lack of decisiveness deals the final blow on your feeling lovable enough to be loved. You drive your partner away--which, on some level suits you just fine.  Now you've traded the fear of risk-taking for the comfort of doing nothing.


  • Seek help.  Don't go it alone. The moment you feel stymied and emotionally paralyzed, seek advice from your partner, friends, religious leaders, financial and career advisors or therapists. 
  • Create an action plan.  Brainstorm, think big and small. Could you relocate?  Get training in a new field? Take on a second job? Depression often accompanies helplessness. The best antidote is to develop an actionable plan.
  • Get real.  Perhaps now is not the time to re-do the kitchen or go back to school full-time.  Remind yourself that self-esteem increases with taking back control through reasonable steps.  Aiming too high or low--sure signs of fears of success and failure--increases your depression, agitation and relationship difficulties. 
  • Use the right tools of self-evaluation. Retool your personal values. You are not measured by what you have or own but by what you do.  The more you work to take the necessary steps of change, the better you feel about yourself.  When we like ourselves, we want to relate to our partner.
  • Volunteer, get involved in helping others. Helping others less fortunate is a depression-fighter. It connects you to people, makes you feel valued and forces you to re-evaluate your situation.

3.  On your normal behavior 

Tough times lead to unwanted behavior.  You become snippy, critical, over-sensitive, sarcastic, dulled and withdrawn. Marital research reveals that criticism and withdrawal are kisses of death to love.


  • Become aware of your mood changes.  Observe yourself. Are you morphing into a permanent couch potato? Getting high-strung? 
  • Know these common warning signs that your stress has spilled over into your relationship such as losing interest in sex, being withdrawn, or becoming overly negative.