How Couples Can Alleviate Stress on Their Relationship

“If to change is what you need, you can change right next to me.”

As Ben Platt beautifully illustrates in his song “Grow As We Go”, you don’t need to leave a relationship just because it hits rocky waters. Our society looks up to long-lasting relationships, not because we applaud their ability to stay the same forever, but because they could make it through each other’s lifetime of changes and still find love for them.

Your entire relationship can suffer even if only one person is dealing with stress. How can you better your relationship’s chances of survival? Follow these steps to help ease stress on your relationship.

Acknowledge the Problem and the Solution

If your relationship is feeling the consequences of outside stress, it’s probably because one or all partners are acting emotionally distant. Emotional distance is when one partner shuts out the other to deal with stress outside the relationship. This is normally not done intentionally, but can have a heavy effect on the partnership.

Emotional distance can look like sleeping in separate beds, keeping conversations intellectual instead of emotional, using harsh words to cut conversations short, or being entirely silent towards the other person.

You will need to introduce functional ways to cope with stress (whether on an individual or couple’s level) to regain a sense of intimacy and romance.

Identifying Your Stressors

Having too many external stressors can interfere with a couple’s ability to communicate well, connect intimately, and resolve conflict. You can try the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale to help identify where your stress is and how stressed you are, especially if you have a bad habit of denying or downplaying your stressors.

Compare your list with your partners and see how and where they might interact.

Share How You’re Feeling with Honesty

Sit down with your partner and go over these questions:

  • How has stress affected your emotions recently?
  • What are you trying to help cope?
  • Are there any coping mechanisms that have a positive effect on this relationship?
  • Any that have a negative effect?
  • What actions will you take to cope better in the future?

Take turns answering until each partner has felt fully heard by the other. When one person finishes, re-explain what they said in your own words to make sure you understand each other correctly.

Connecting with each other in this way will help you feel lighter, like the stress isn’t all your own anymore, and it will help to know for certain that your partner is supporting you through it.

Build Psychological Resilience

Psychological resilience is our ability to bounce back from stress and trauma. Everyone has psychological resilience, but its strength varies between people. The stronger one’s psychological resilience, the better they cope with stress that arises. It’s like a muscle you can work out over time through self-awareness and practice.

Here’s a list of things you can do to enhance your psychological resiliency…

    • Reflect on your strengths and talents. Ask yourself, how am I using these strengths in my everyday life? How can I create opportunities for me to use them more often? Consider strengths assessments like VIA Strengths to identify and start building on these skills. Even better: ask your friends and family what they think your strengths are! This will also help build your sense of gratitude, which is linked to improving mental health.
    • Expand your social circle. Being socially distant can weaken your psychological resiliency, as socialization is something all humans need to survive and thrive. Think of a hobby you love doing and see how you can build community around it. You could also perform random acts of kindness—this will bring more positivity into your life and leave you feeling like you helped someone today, which contributes to your sense of purpose.
    • Acknowledge each other’s “bids”. According to Dr. John Gottman, emotional “bids” are ways we ask for attention or affirmation from our partner. These could be straight-up, like asking your partner, “Can you help me clean out the car?” or more subtle, like a sigh from across the room, indicating that they need to vent. In a study comparing couples’ first six years of marriage, the ones that stayed together answered each other’s bids 86% of the time, while couples that divorced only answered bids 33% of the time. Talking about each other’s bids is important to building a lasting, healthy relationship.

By following these steps, you can watch stress float away from your relationship like songbirds off into the sunset. Sometimes though, it helps to have an outside perspective that knows every detail. Schedule an appointment with our counselors today for a more catered approach to building stress-coping skills as an individual or as a couple.

3 Ingredients to a Happy Marriage

Have you ever wondered why some marriages last decades while others barely go two years? Why do some couples thrive and grow together while others crash and burn?

The secret? There are three secrets, actually; three ingredients to a happy and successful marriage. Without all three of these, many couples will struggle to remain connected and committed.

Communication

Communication is to a marriage what gasoline is to an automobile: without it, you’re not going anywhere. And the better the communication, the longer the “motor” will last.

The words we choose to connect with others are incredibly important. Use the right ones and you generate feelings of love, safety, and security. Use the wrong ones and your partner is apt to feel anger and resentment.

It is often said that HOW you say something is as important as WHAT you say, and in many ways, this is true. When you ask your spouse a question, is their answer thoughtful or dismissive? Do they say, “Yes, that sounds like a great plan,” or “Whatever?” Both are affirmative, but only the first sentence is positive and respectful.

But perhaps the most important factor of good communication is listening. Many marriages have been improved when one or more people learn how to be a good listener.

How exactly do you become a good listener? Two ways: Start caring more about your partner – when you care for someone, you are truly interested in what they have to say. Second, when they are speaking, don’t think about other things – don’t think about your day or what you’d like to have for dinner – don’t even think about how you’d like to respond to what your partner is saying, simply LISTEN to them. Give them your full attention.

The better listeners and communicators you both are, the better partners you can be to each other.

Know Yourself and Your Partner

The sad fact is, most people spend more time trying to understand how their smartphone or tablet works than how their own personality – or that of their partner -works. We’re all individuals with unique quirks and behaviors. The more we understand about ourselves and our spouse, the less conflict we’ll experience.

Put Each Other First

Happy and successful marriages are the ones where each person is putting their partner’s needs first. When both are doing this, all needs are being met. Problems arise when only one individual meets their partner’s needs. When this happens, one person is happy, the other is left out in the cold.

If, after reading this, you have become aware that your marriage is missing some of these critical ingredients, don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist. Sometimes an impartial third party can help both individuals get their priorities straight.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.