Have a happier relationship supporting your significant other’s work-related stress
Has your job become more and more stressful in the past few years? Most people have experienced an increase in job stress in America as jobs become scarcer and demands become larger. Add to that an increase in two-income families, where not one but two stressed-out spouses can harm couple’s work and home lives. What can we do to support all the stressed-out people in our lives?
A new study conducted by Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Business Administration in the Florida State University College of Business, examines the role of support in households where daily stress is common to both spouses: “Given that a lack of support from one’s spouse represents a major cause of both divorce and career derailment, this research is needed to address issues that affect both home and work,” Hochwarter said.
Interestingly, he also found some ineffective methods of support: “Some attempts to support your stressed-out spouse can backfire, actually making the situation much worse,” he says. Even if you aren’t married, you can still benefit from these learnings in your interactions with almost anyone: your significant other, co-workers or partners, friends, and relatives.
10 Ways to Support a Spouse with a deep and far-reaching impact:
- Be aware of one’s spouse’s daily work demands (like time pressures, lack of resources, deadlines, and supervisors).
- Don’t force support.
- Understand that communication lines are open regardless of the circumstances.
- Recognize that distancing oneself from the family or lashing out is not a practical way to foster help.
- Attempt to bring one’s spouse back to the middle—up when down in the dumps and down when overly agitated.
- Try not to bombard the family with complaints about minor workplace irritants.
- Avoid one-upping one’s spouse in terms of who has had the worse day.
- Continue to work at it and avoid complacency.
- Remain rational and do not cast the spouse as the “bad guy.”
- Try to avoid keeping a running tab on who is giving and who is getting.
“Most important, though, was the ability for a spouse to offer support on days when he or she needs it just as much,” Hochwarter says. “In many cases, both return home from work stressed. Generating the mental and emotional resources needed to help when your own tank is empty is often difficult. Successful couples almost always kept a steady supply of support resources on reserve to be tapped on particularly demanding days.”
Hochwarter also noted that the men and women differed by gender in terms of what support behaviors worked best for them. In general, women appreciate getting “cut some slack” in terms of household activities; feeling wanted; and receiving expressions of warmth and affection. Men, meanwhile, are more likely to respond positively to offers of assistance with errands and feeling appreciated and needed.
“When stress enters any relationship, it has the potential to either bind people together or break them apart,” Hochwarter said. “Findings strongly confirm this with respect to job tension. What also became obvious was the critical role of communication and trust among spouses; without them, you have a foundation best described as crumbling, even in the best of circumstances.”
Even if you’re super-stressed at work today, take a few minutes to support someone else. Practice not keeping score and trust that you’ll get the support you need too!