Most of us are familiar with the cycle. At work, the pressure to be “always on,” to meet deadlines, to serve the demands of colleagues or customers, or to deal with a difficult coworker can create stress that leaks into our personal lives. This stress can cause us to be impatient with romantic partners or kids or to neglect our duties at home, creating a vicious cycle of anxiety outside the office that makes work stresses even harder to face.
There are countless examples of couples driven to the edge by work-related stress. And psychological studies have shown that outside stressors — particularly stress at work — can push relationships to the breaking point. But they don’t have to. The vicious cycle of work–home stress can become a virtuous cycle when partners learn to cope with stress together. We are social beings who tend to be happier when connected to others. Our romantic partner is, almost by definition, the person on whom we rely to provide support, and recent research has shown (PDF) that partners who practice dealing with stress together early on can actually strengthen the durability of their relationships over time.