The 'Right' & 'Wrong' Way to Stress Out in Front of Your Husband

stressed coupleIf you've had a stressful day, your husband will be able to give you some perspective -- and vice versa. But if you're BOTH having s****y days at the same time, well, it's not so easy to be understanding. (You're having a s*** day, after all!) Even so, when under stress, women tend to be more supportive than men.


A new study published by the journal Psychological Science (don't you love how these academic tomes never try to sound interesting?) describes the results of an experiment testing how differently men and women manage stress.

Researchers enlisted 189 couples claiming to be "highly satisfied" with their relationship. (Probably because the average age of the women was 26, the men, 28 -- they're having sex ALL the time.) On average, the couples had been together slightly more than four years.

They were divided into three groups: one in which the man was stressed, the other in which the woman was stressed, and a third in which they BOTH were.

In case you were wondering, the researchers actually INDUCED the stress by holding mock job interviews, then asking each participant to count down from 2,043 in increments of 17, as fast as they could, and each time they screwed up, they had to start over.


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What they found was that when a partner (man or woman) was NOT stressed out himself/herself, he or she did a great job of supporting his or her partner. But when they were both upset, women were better able to regulate their own stress and still have the energy to soothe and support their partner.

It's perhaps not that surprising when you think what fabulous multitaskers women are. Fix toast for the kids while feeding the cat, vacuuming, paying online bills, AND shaving our legs? Please. With our eyes closed.

The scientists explained that when men became stressed, they were likely to get "emotionally flooded" when their partner started freaking out, too. They had less empathy and made a greater number of negative comments such as, "You're overreacting!"

Which no one should pretty much ever say to a woman, because it's like throwing a match to gasoline.

This effect seemed worse when women expressed their stress in "emotional terms." Stressed men were able to offer more support when women used "emotionally neutral" or "matter-of-fact" terms.

Which you will already know if you have ever read just one issue of Cosmo.

To apply this to real life, scientists suggest women be matter-of-fact when we get upset, and not give an "emotional recap," which can be hard for men to understand/support.

For example:

Don't say: "I hate my life and I'm so stressed and the car wouldn't start this morning and there's nothing in my closet that I want to wear and I never should have gotten this haircut and if I had more time I could go to the gym like a normal person and lose these extra five pounds but I never get a break!"

Do say: "The car wouldn't start and I was late this morning."

For their part, men are advised to make a "gradual transition" to offering support. Something like, "Honey, that sucks about the car. Let me get a few minutes to myself and we'll talk." Instead of, "I don't know what the f*** you just said."

Stress can be a challenge in ANY relationship, the researchers admit. They actually refer to it as an "invisible killer" of relationships, which sounds like the plot of a horror movie.

But it's true! So you know, if you want to survive, stick to the facts, ma'am.


Image © lurilSokolov/iStock

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