Connect During High Stress Without Words


Where have I been? I have been swimming in stress up to my eyeballs.  You know the kind where you can barely see through all the work that life is throwing at you.

We’ve been making rapid fire decisions while waiting on our family move to happen. I am happy to share that we are moved in but still shoveling our way out of mountains of boxes! When I am under stress, my creativity is zapped while my irritability and heart rate skyrocket.

What about you? Think about what is it like to be around you when you are stressed or overwhelmed. Are you quick to anger, a puddle of tears, lost in a bottle, or nowhere to be found? Each of these would be hard to get close to. Add your spouse who is doing at least one of these too, and you both may be unintentionally pushing each other away.

The more stressed we are, usually the more isolated we become. Even if we communicate more when we are overwhelmed, it usually isn’t as effective, positive, or inviting. Let’s explore how connecting during stressful times with our spouse without words can be more effective.

The Stress – Isolation Circle

During prolonged stress, you are running at a higher level of alertness, so you are looking for more threats. In this way, stress leads to increased anxiety and tension. And if you are operating with increased tension levels you tend to isolate more to calm down. But the more you isolate, the more stress you feel even if you aren’t alone in dealing with the stress. Whew, my head is spinning!

Since we can’t avoid stress, it’s great to realize that you don’t have to give up on intimacy during stressful times. It may look different, but connecting and intimacy can still be present during stress. 

What Intimacy Is Not:

  • Telling each other everything that enters your mind
  • Prodding and pulling on your spouse to talk to you
  • Demanding or begging for touch and sex
  • Telling the other how to be a better spouse
  • Talking only about to do lists or symptoms
  • Trying to get your spouse to respond or be different

What Intimacy Is:

  • Being emotionally present even when words make it worse
  • Caring about your spouse’s best interest without losing yourself
  • Speaking up about yourself even if it isn’t always positive
  • Appreciating each others contribution and respecting differences
  • Accepting your contact may not be reciprocated
  • Finding your own mixture of talk, touch, or time. Intimacy is whatever makes you feel connected with your significant other.

Intimacy With Less Sex or Words!?!?

What did you learn by reading my thoughts on what intimacy is and is not? Are you trying to create intimacy or stumbling into more marriage conflict?

When everything that comes out of your mouth is seen as a threat, then I say try more touching. A lot can be said with a hug, kiss, or a loving caress. Connecting without words helps you reap the benefits of lowering your stress level without putting your foot in your mouth.

“Stroking and massage trigger the production of oxytocin and endorphins, brain chemicals that can relax and produce feelings of attachment.” ~ Helen Fisher from Why We Love

You don’t have to have sex to reap these stress reducing benefits. Stress is often the first thing to go when your energy is low and your workload is high. Your sex drive should bounce back when the calm returns, just keep working on finding a more effective way to connect. Focus on your own part instead of over-focusing on what you want your partner to do.

Every couple is different. Just remember connecting during stressful times may be different than during calmer family times. Are you the couple that does better sitting quietly together, touching more, or talking more during stressful times?

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Photo Credit: “Stressed” by Jenisse Decker

4 responses to “Connect During High Stress Without Words

  1. Hi Marci,
    thank you for a helpful article
    “Caring about your spouse’s best interest without losing yourself’ – I would like to read more about it, since I feel it`s a challenge for me in the relationship.

    • I imagine it’s a challenge for all of us. I think it starts in our head with an intention of keeping our mate’s best interest in mind as well as our own. To me it’s relating as equals, not one better or worse. What do you think it would look like?

  2. Hi Marci,

    What a great blog. My husband and I are going through one of those high stress times at the moment, so I really relate to your blog. Thanks for your insight and advice. I am going to try out the communicating more without words and see if that helps us get through this time.


    • Kim, Thank you for visiting. Let me know how it goes. Every couple is different. Touch happens to be very comforting to me. The words can follow… Good luck!