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Stress levels of Australian Dating and Engaged Couples impacting Physical Health: Personal Stress

In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. Stressors being external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction can be handled in 2 basic ways:

  1. Eliminate the stressor or
  2. Change one’s reaction to stress.

When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

Top 5 Stressors for Dating, Engaged and Married Couples 

Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete the PREPARE/ENRICH Couple Assessment, the top 5 stressors for each relationship stage are listed below. Overall, married couples report higher stress levels than dating or engaged couples.

    Dating Couples: Your job, Feeling emotionally upset, Inadequate income, Your partner, Too much to do around the home
    Engaged Couples: Your job, Financial concerns, Cost of wedding, Lack of exercise, Lack of sleep

    Married Couples: Your partner, Your job, Feeling emotionally upset, Inadequate income, Too much to do around the home

Married Couples and Stress 

Note the item rated as the number one stressor by Dating and Engaged couples is Your Partner. This was the number one stressor cited by both the men and women.

Married couples who take PREPARE/ENRICH are often being seen in a counseling context. It is not uncommon for individuals experiencing relational conflict to believe their problems would be solved if their partner would only change. Not only do they believe this, they often express it. Experienced counsellors and relationship educators are used to the finger pointing which often accompanies the initial sessions of relationship education.

Unfortunately, one partner cannot change the other and this approach often leaves individuals disempowered in the relationship. In fact, the more one individual focuses on the other person’s behaviour, the more resentment, anger, and resistance they typically receive in return.

It is much more productive to help these couples work on things that are in their control including the way the speak to one another, the way the resolve conflict, the way each individual chooses to react to their daily stressors and interactions with their partner.

Tune in for part 3 next week – Wedding planning and stress levels.


  • Neff, L.A., and Karney, B.R., (2009). Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97 (3), 435-450.

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and Mediator, Secretary, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia (MAREAA)

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times.

For more information on the virus and the steps that can be taken to minimise its impact, visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.

Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube:

Tune in next week for more discussion about relationships and mental health. 

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