Our relationships don’t always end with a bang. Sometimes, they begin to fall apart from the inside, a little bit each day.

Stress is one of the most common slow killers in romantic relationships. Our partners should keep us happy, but in stressful times, our relationships can seem more like a burden than a blessing. Instead of seeing our home life as a place of refuge from the outside world, it becomes yet another place that we wish to avoid when we need to wind down.

Think of your relationship like a garden. It must be cultivated on a regular basis. Like a garden, the “weeds” of bad feelings and stress must be pulled out at the root. It is not enough to simply wait until your garden becomes choked and overgrown. If your relationship is tended and cared for, it will sprout, grow strong, and bloom with surprising beauty.

Times of stress and change cannot always be avoided, but there are a few things you can do to feel like you are confronting adversity as a team. Here are 3 tips to navigating stressful periods with your partner.

  1. Start thinking like a team. This is one of the most important assets to a relationship under stress. For example, when arguing about chores, both parties might feel like they are bearing the brunt of the housework. But if you sit down together and hash out who will take on which responsibilities to better divide the labor, you’ll gain a better understanding of the contributions that each of you makes. This will help the work get done quicker and reinforce the team mentality.
  2. Communicate about everything. Notify them when you take a shared responsibility on yourself. For example, keep them in the loop if you are taking a pet to the vet for a checkup or plan to spend the day cleaning the house. It’s also crucial to balance this out with appreciation for what your partner does. Even small compliments like, “I noticed you cleaned out the car today, thanks,” go a long way towards letting your partner know that you recognize their contributions and appreciate them.
  3. Remember the little things. Small gestures towards your partner will also go a long way. Bringing them lunch at work, buying them a small gift, or complimenting them when you sense they need it— all examples of sweet little gestures that will mean the world to your partner. Once you get in the habit of focusing on the little things, your partner may begin to join in. Especially during trying times—following a fight that got a bit too mean, for example—tokens of appreciation can make all the difference.

Going through stressful times that are impacting your relationship? Consider seeking help from a Portland relationship therapist to come out stronger on the other side.