It feels good to be in a close, loving relationship. There’s nothing like having a shoulder to cry on when life’s got you down. But sometimes it’s your relationship that has you down in the dumps. If you find that you and your partner have hit a stressful point, it’s time to take a step back and evaluate what’s going on so that you can figure out ways to ease the tension. Any love worth fighting for will require a little dirty work here and there, so roll up your sleeves and learn how to deal with your couple stress. Here are a few ways to soothe your stress-filled hearts.
Talk it out
As soon as you notice something is not right, set aside some time for you two to talk. You may find your partner has been stressed out about work and his or her surly mood has little to do with you. Don’t assume the worst. Ask questions, talk, and regroup as a couple.
Psychologist Susan Heitler writes in Psychology Today that it’s important to work on your communication skills. This is the only way you’ll be able to effectively work through trying times. Heitler explains:
Skills enable basketball players to become a winning team. Insufficient skills increase stress on the team because the players then trip each other up, anger each other by not passing appropriately or shooting effectively, and can’t accomplish the job of scoring points and winning. Couples with insufficient skills inadvertently antagonize each other … At the same time, they increase stress in their relationship by being less able to come up with good solutions to the problems they face.
Listen to each other
A big part of talking is listening. Remember to give your partner the respect he or she deserves. Hear each other out; don’t just pretend to listen. You should be able to repeat or paraphrase at least some of what your partner is saying to you. Pay attention to your body language. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. If you can try to show that you are actively listening and you care about what is being expressed, you’ve won half the battle.
Communication expert Tony Smart emphasizes the importance of being fully engaged in his book, Simple Tips and Techniques to Become a Better Listener:
Listening affects us on more than one level. What we usually practice is a form of listening called passive listening. Through this method, your ears work as if on autopilot, taking in all the information in its surroundings, in case you choose to use any of it. This type of listening, on a superficial level, may be good for things such as catching the news running in the background, but has no place in effective communication with other people.
Tempers may flare during such an emotional discussion. Don’t let yours get the best of you. Let each person express their feelings about the relationship stress. Don’t attempt to yell over each other or push what you have to say. Allow space for each of you to say what needs to be said, and try not to judge. When you attack each other, you will just create an environment where you’re each trying to defend yourselves.
Mental health counselors at the University of Texas at Austin say fighting fair involves avoiding accusations, exaggerating, or stockpiling complaints. This is when one or both partners save all of their grievances for one moment when they unload all of their previously unmentioned hurt feelings from the past. “Storing up lots of grievances and hurt feelings over time is counterproductive. It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for which recollections may differ. Try to deal with problems as they arise,” says the team.
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