From time to time life will inevitably put stressful challenges in the way of every couple. If you already have the communication skills and mutual commitment to create solutions then you are well on your way to resolving your differences.
However, if you or your partner is struggling to get to grips with issues, then you will need to learn and practice the skills to communicate so that your relationship can become safe and supportive. A true partnership of souls! Restoring harmony in a relationship is always a challenge. But along with the journey comes a lot of positive self-discovery too.
In this article we will look at how to deal with stress in a relationship.
1. Identify the cause of the Stress.
If the stressful experience is originating from outside the relationship (eg. work or extended family) then it needs to be identified and labeled for what it is. Then the discussion can move towards finding solutions on how to minimize the disruption to your lives. Learning how to respond appropriately to work related stress is a subject I cover in this article.
2. Stay Positive and Hopeful.
Maintaining a positive mental attitude is critical to this process. Although it won’t be easy, if you can stay positive it will allow you to handle events without feeling panic while you are on the road to resolving the stress. This is where activities like yoga, mindfulness and visualization will help you to stay focused and maintain a healthy mental state. Remind yourself that all things are temporary and that this stress will also pass.
3. Stop Overthinking Things.
Many of us have the bad habit of overanalyzing everything, particularly with issues that may be causing stress in our relationships. The problem with this ‘habit’ is that you are letting it displace the peace and joy that you should be experiencing.
When we overthink things, we may start to believe that our thoughts and fears are reality. And that can lead to bad decision-making. If you find this happening then make a conscious effort to remind yourself of all the truths in your relationship.
4. Meditation and Exercise.
Meditation is a great way to stay grounded in the present and pay attention to what your senses are experiencing. We need to enjoy the present and do what we can day by day. This will help to stop you getting ahead of yourself and ‘roleplaying’ what you think will happen in the future. When we combine meditation with a good diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep, it’s hard for stress to wear us down!
5. Release Controlling Emotions.
To the best of your ability, try to accept events and the people around you. You cannot control everything around you, nor can you easily change people. Let go of things that are out of your control and allow yourself to go with the flow. Make decisions out of hope rather than fear and trust in the process.
6. Stay Connected (Daily).
No matter how much stress you may be experiencing, if you want your relationship to thrive then you must reach out and connect every day. Find the time to catch up on the events of the day. Give each other a reassuring hug that says ‘things will get better’. Find a reason to smile and have a laugh together. Do this daily so that you do not start to develop a ‘distance’ in your relationship. If the distance is already there, then practice connecting to help validate the sense of self-worth each of you need.
7. Listen Effectively.
When there is stress in a relationship, some conversations may be difficult. But remind yourself that it is better to share your feelings and concerns than to keep them bottled up inside. The biggest part of communicating is active listening rather than talking. In fact, most ‘misunderstandings’ in relationships come from one or both parties not really listening to the other!
When you really listen to your partner, you are showing your respect. When you are able to paraphrase back to them what they have said, it shows that you have really listened.
8. Communicate From Your Heart.
As adults we tend to know when other adults are being ‘Real’ in their communication, … and when they are not. Stay genuine and speak from your heart. You could even approach the conversation by asking these sorts of questions; and then taking turns listening to each other’s answers.
• How has stress been affecting your emotional well being?
• What things are you doing to help you cope with your stress?
• What are some of the positive things that are working for you?
• What are some of the negative effects of stress that you are not coping with?
• What actions would you like to take that could reduce stress in the future?
Again, listen effectively, and when they have finished repeat back your partner’s responses so that they know you have heard what they have been going through and so that there will be no misunderstandings.
9. Practice Kindness.
You may not always agree with what your partner may be saying about the stress in your relationship. Just as we release our controlling emotions (point 5) so we remove the need for one person to be right and the other wrong. We need to move past ‘right and wrong’ by practicing empathy and forgiveness. Recognize that you are not alone, and try to understand where your partner is coming from.
10. Build Up Your Resilience.
Resilience is a quality that we all have to some degree. It’s that ability to bounce back from a loss or other negative experience. The silver lining to experiencing stress in a relationship is that it helps you to strengthen your psychological resilience. The stronger it is, then the better you will be able to cope with stress again in the future. The better you are able to respond to stress (positively), the stronger your resilience and confidence will be.
11. Maintain Your Perspective.
Too often, when things in your relationship are really stressful, we can start to feel that “everything is bad” when it really is not. It’s important to remind yourself of this so that your perspective does not become distorted. You could simply make a list of all the positive qualities in your partner and your relationship. Remembering those good things will also help you to stay calm when feeling stressed.
12. Journal Your Thoughts.
For many people, stress makes their brains go into overdrive. Thoughts keep them awake at night, and now they have to deal with sleep deprivation on top of their stress. When something is interfering with your relationship, it can help to journal your thoughts (even if it is in the middle of the night!). Writing them down may be a good first step in clearing them out of your head so that you can get back to sleep.
The trick to journaling is to make sure you ‘balance’ your writing. By this I mean that if all your entries and ‘negative’ it can be even more stressful when reviewing them. On the other hand, if you are including thoughts on all the good things that you are thankful for in your relationship then your journal can be a huge stress reliever. And don’t keep it a secret. Share your journal with your partner too!
13. Know When To Leave.
We all know that some stressful relationships don’t have happy endings. Some relationships turn toxic and quickly become abusive (on a verbal and even physical level). It is almost impossible in these circumstances to stay connected and communicate in a mutually respectful way. This is when you need to be pragmatic and accept that there are limits to what you can expect to achieve. Not all relationships are worth saving; particularly if there is the potential for violence. Respect yourself enough to know when to leave.
14. Final Thoughts.
There are always limits to what you can do on your own. When you have tried everything and nothing seems to be improving, and you believe your relationship is worth saving then you should seriously consider couples counseling. Don’t allow yourself to imagine that there is some sort or ‘stigma’ attached to seeing a counselor. They are there to shed some new light, and new ideas, to help you resolve the problem. It could just be the breakthrough you need!
I hope you have enjoyed reading these tips for how to deal with stress in a relationship.