How to Help Your Spouse Cope with Work Stress

From the Harvard Business Review
By Rebecca Knight

Home is a sanctuary from work stress, right? Not always. Even if you are able to leave your projects and worries at the office, your spouse may have difficulty doing so — and that stress can rub off on you. How can you help your partner cope? What’s the best thing to say when your partner starts complaining — and what should you not say? Is there a way to help them see things differently? And how can you set boundaries so that home can be a haven again?

What the Experts Say
Dealing with stress is a fact of working life. And when you’re half of a dual-career couple, you have both your own stress to manage and your significant other’s stress as well. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Jennifer Petriglieri, assistant professor of organizational behavior at INSEAD. “Two careers can mean twice the stress, but it can also mean twice the empathy and understanding,” she says. What’s more, she adds, helping your partner learn to cope with stress helps you cope with it better, too. “When a couple is good at managing stress, it makes them [as individuals] more resilient.” The key, says John Coleman, coauthor of the book Passion & Purpose, is to move away from the notion that “you’re two individuals managing stress” and move toward the idea that “you’re partners managing it together.” Your goal, he adds, is to “become a constructive outlet” for your spouse. So, whether your significant other is stressing over a conflict with their boss, looming layoffs, or a crazy-making client, here are some pointers on how to help.

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