Since bad moods and stress seem to be contagious, it's easy to be brought down by and enmeshed in your partner's negativity, says Debbie Mandel, the author of Addicted to Stress. Furthermore, she adds that men and women experience stress very differently, so it can be difficult to react and respond to your partner's stress in a way that disables it.

"Women definitely feel stress more intensely than men," Mandel explains. "Women are hard wired to process stress again and again and chew it over, and women have been raised to feel responsible for everyone's happiness. Men tend to suppress their stress and be silent about it, even though they may feel like a failure."

It's common for a couple to have difficulty managing a partner's stress, says Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Ed. D., author of Second Chance at Your Dream.

"There is an inequity in many couples for how to handle stress," she says. "They need to acknowledge to each other that something stressful has happened, and then move into: I feel this with you, how can I help?"

So how can you help when your significant other's really stressed out?

  • Be an attentive listener even if you don't say anything, Mandel says. "Half the time, people don't want any advice, they just want to announce their reality to you," she explains. "Once it's out there, then you can take your cue." If your advice is sought, give it. If it's not, just be there to hold the person's hand.

  • Sometimes, simply taking a stressed-out person on an outing can help, Mandel says. "We are a tribal society," she says. "Once it is out in the open, the person may see that the cause of the stress is not so terrible. Other people may give you advice and help you laugh about it." Very often, the more you talk about the stressful event and situation, the more acceptable it becomes&emdash;and the more diluted it becomes on the scale of isn't-this-terrible, Mandel says.

  • Try to get physically close, she recommends. Work out with your loved one and you may find his or her stress moving right on out. Stress can lower the libido, Mandel explains, and you don't want to stop having a good sexual relationship with your partner. "You need to have that bond," she says. "Otherwise, you're roommates."

  • Think of yourselves as two people coming together to solve a problem rather than one person always being the nurturer. "Acknowledge each other's strengths and weaknesses," Hover-Kramer says. "Then let your partner know that you are willing to just hear them out and talk together to figure out a solution."

  • Take a walk together. Not only is sunlight good for stress, Mandel says, but your significant other may open up and reveal more about their stress when you are walking side by side and they don't have to look you in the eye.

  • Be players on the same team, Mandel says. "Sometimes you carry the ball and sometimes your partner carries the ball," she says. "That takes a lot of the burden off either person. And what better way to tackle life's obstacles than with a teammate?"