The MacKenzies: Stress by the Sexes
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The MacKenzies: Stress by the Sexes

How Robin and Leigh MacKenzie cope with their stress, and how it affects their relationship.

They've got six kids, equally hectic schedules, and similar life pressures, but Ladies' Home Journal's stressed-out couple, Robin and Leigh MacKenzie, perceive their stress differently.

This became apparent in recent psychological testing that evaluated the couple's stress levels. The results? "Robin perceives greater stress than Leigh does," says JoAnn Difede, PhD, director of the Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Program at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, in New York City.

Indeed, with a score of 66, Robin's stress rated far higher than most women, while Leigh came in at 27. That could explain why Robin characterizes a typical evening at home as insanity. "I walk in, and before I take my coat off, everybody is saying at once, 'I'm hungry! Can you look at this for school? Guess what I did today?'" says Robin. "It's like, Can I at least pee first, for crying out loud?" she laughs. Leigh, on the other hand, is more likely to let the kids know if he is stressed and isn't ready to deal with them just then.

But when partners handle stress differently, it can lead to more stress, and this is sometimes the case with the MacKenzies. "When he's so calm, I think, 'How can he not see this?'" says Robin.

But just becoming aware of their differences has already begun to ease tension for the pair. "It's a big help to know he sees the same problems -- just not in the same way." Likewise, Leigh says he finds it's useful to be aware that Robin takes problems so much more to heart. These insights should help to smooth the way as the MacKenzies tackle their financial, time management, and organizational challenges with the help of our Stress SWAT Team in the coming months.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, May 2004.