The stress relaxation behaviors of magnetorheological (MR) gels under stepwise shear loading are systematically investigated. The particle-enhanced effect, the magneto-induced effect, and the temperature-enhanced effect on the stress relaxation of MR gels are discussed. For further analysis of the magneto-induced stress relaxation mechanism in MR gels, a phenomenological model is established to describe the stress relaxation behavior of the matrix and the magnetic particle chains. All characteristic parameters introduced in the model, i.e. relaxation time, instantaneous modulus, and stable modulus, have well-defined physical meanings and are fitted based on the experimental results. The influence of each parameter on the macroscopic response is discussed and it is found that the relaxation stress induced by the magneto-mechanical coupling effect plays an important role in the stress relaxation process of MR gels.