Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress

Habits of Healthy Couples

In my work with couples through online marriage counseling and relationship coaching, many of my couples clients report that their conflicts become unavoidable and difficult during stressful conditions. Even the most healthy, successful relationships will admit that when outside stressors begin to permeate the protective barrier built with patience, perseverance, and care there is an underlying discomfort that starts to engross itself into the relationship.

Now more than ever as we face social isolation, city-wide quarantines, and the threat of a highly contagious virus we need to rely on our closest relationships for support. Unfortunately, the stressors due to the state of the world we are currently living in make our relationship conflicts heavy and difficult.  

When under perfect conditions, relationship conflicts are easily manageable and negotiable. Stress, however, awakens a fight-or-flight reaction that requires a mindful response from both partners. If you are looking for ways to protect your relationship in times of stress, here are five easy ways to look out for your partner and your relationship when things start to feel a little heavy.

5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Relationship In Times Of Stress 

Look for Opportunities to Show Grace

When we are experiencing a great deal of stress, anxiety, or worry we’re far less likely to be as forgiving, thoughtful, or mindful of other people as we would be normally. The lack of patience we feel when stressed (especially when stuck at home) can lead to a great deal of conflict in any relationship. 

As such, simply being aware of your or your partner’s shorter temper caused by stress can allow the flexibility of compassionate understanding. Looking for opportunities to show grace is an excellent way to protect your relationship in times of stress. 

If your partner is likely to experience high levels of anxiety and decreased patience as a result of stress, give them grace for it. Make these moments an open conversation and ask them how they’re doing, how they’re coping in spite of the increased stress, and if they need anything.  

When we show grace to our partners in their time of need, they are more likely to reciprocate for us in ours. Being supportive of your partner’s feelings and reactions to stress (even if you don’t fully understand) will strengthen your bond.

For more on communication in times of stress, read: Communication That Connects

Consider Your Partner’s Love Language

Every one of us has a special way we understand and process love. For some, it may be spending quality time together, while others may enjoy words of affirmation. When asking what your partner needs, consider their love language. If you don’t know what your or your partner’s love language is, here’s a link to a quick quiz to find out:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

You can better support your partner when you know how they prefer to give and receive love, and vice versa. Stress and anxiety may prevent us from showing love in the best way, but if we understand our partner (and them us) on this deeper level, it makes showing up for one another easier.

Showing your partner love in the best way that they receive it can make a huge difference at the end of a long, stress-filled day. Sometimes, however, no matter how love is shown our loved ones may simply not be in the best place to receive it. When this is the case, it’s okay to give them adequate space to work through and process what’s happening internally.

Remember, your partner loves you! And if their “flight” response is initiated in times of stress – give them the much-needed space they may need to heal, so that they can show up for you when you need them the most!

Know that Time Apart is Okay!

Sometimes, after long stressful days what we need is a period of time alone to reset, recollect ourselves, and reorient to being at home. This can be extremely difficult for partners whose boundaries are drastically different from one another. 

If you are a “reacher” and always down for attention, but your partner tends to retreat when stressed or tired you can help them by giving them some alone time to process their day and feelings. This will help avoid conflict and maintain a healthy relationship. 

If you or your partner are encountering a lot of stress within the home environment, encourage one another to find a quiet space to be alone for a few minutes. This simple act helps to reset our internal stress meters allowing us to “show-up” more attentive and empathetic for our partner.

Looking for other ways you can practice empathy? Read: Empathy: The Key to Connection and Communication

Maintain Your Individual and Relationship Routines

Stressful situations often cause us to forego certain routines: relationship care routines, self-care routines, and professional routines. We NEED these routines to feel normal, be successful, and feel a sense of security in ourselves and our partner.

If you and your partner try to keep a regular date night once a week, do everything you can to maintain that routine. That means if you’re stuck at home, bring date night home. You can light candles, cook an easy meal together, and find a fun activity to do.

If you’re accustomed to an early morning workout in the gym but can’t go to the gym, find a few guided yoga videos or in-home exercises to keep your regular routine going. Maintaining your self-care routines will help you feel more comfortable in an otherwise stressful situation. Not to mention, exercise and a little R-n-R can refresh your mind and lower stress cortisol levels.

When working from home, it’s important to maintain your professional routines. Set a schedule, connect with coworkers via phone or online video, and meet your deadlines just as you would at the office. Also, stepping away from your work when the “workday” is complete will help you keep healthy habits around work / home boundaries.

These are just a few ways that maintaining routines can help protect your relationship in times of stress.

Externalize The Stress And Unite Together

We can all be guilty of bringing external stressors into our interpersonal relationships. The more stressful things become the more it impacts our day to day with our loved ones. Eventually, we find ourselves snapping at our partners, angry at them for little things.  

It may seem at these times that we’re angry or frustrated with our partner when what we’re really experiencing is loss. We miss our partner in the stress-free environment that allowed us to fully enjoy our partner’s company. Our partner isn’t our enemy during these times, in fact, they’re our greatest ally. 

Unite together, recognize how the stress is impacting your relationship, and talk together about how you both can work to lower stress and protect your relationship. 

These 5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Relationship in Times of Stress are all contingent on safe, open communication with your partner. Always communicate openly with your partner and do everything you can to listen and empathize with them. 

Wishing you all the best,
Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC

Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC is a couples counselor, therapist, and life coach with an easy-going, humorous, and down-to-earth style that makes personal growth work both enjoyable and effective. His tireless support, encouragement, and expertise help you get motivated to make real and lasting change in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

Communication Skills For Couples Under Stress

As an experienced online marriage counselor and therapist who has been doing Denver marriage counseling for many years, I know that couples communication can feel challenging under the best of circumstances.

Couples Communication Can Be Challenging Anyway

Many couples struggle with effective couples communication that helps each person feel heard, cared for, and understood. Couples always come to the table with different communication styles, attachment styles, and ways of relating that can lead to misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. It’s hard to communicate with a withdrawn partner, and it’s also hard to connect with someone who is emotionally flooded.

All married couples and cohabitating couples face these issues, and need to intentionally learn how to practice positive communication strategies in order to achieve the kind of “love your relationship” experience they want to have.

Couples Communication is Harder When You’re Both Stressed

This is true for all couples under the best of circumstances. As we say around here, “Great relationships don’t just happen — they’re grown!” But as lives, relationships, jobs and families have been upended due to the mental and emotional reality of coronavirus quarantine… these are not the best of circumstances. 

Just the opposite. Couples all over the world are suddenly in a situation where they are together 24/7, and having to reconfigure everything including their daily routines, re-work boundaries, wrangle suddenly ever-present children needing to be homeschooled, re-organize their homes to accommodate seven cases of canned soup, cope with a sudden loss or significant drop in income, and, oh yeah, figure out how to stay physically safe from the invisible threat wafting through the air. (How to Manage Coronavirus Anxiety, right here.)

Others among us are coping with even harder things like a loved one who is on the front lines as a medical professional, first responder, or grocery store worker at risk of contracting coronavirus as they work to serve their communities. Still other families are now grappling with loved ones getting sick, becoming gravely ill, or losing their lives to coronavirus. 

I could feel my shoulders tense up as I just sat here typing the words, and — friends — this is now our shared experience. 

Don’t Let Coronavirus Ruin Your Relationship

Going back to my first point: Good communication can feel hard for couples anyway, but when you’re both grappling with enormous amounts of stress it can make positive communication even harder…. And at a time when you both need it the most. 

Communication can build your relationship up, or it can tear it apart. Today’s podcast is all about helping you turn towards each other right now, and it starts with the way you talk to each other.

Couples Communication That Connects

It’s exactly at times like these that you need to be able to turn towards your partner and feel that they care about you, are listening to you, and are an emotionally safe person for you. It’s vital that you feel like your partner understands you, and is responsive to you — showing you that they love you, in the ways that matter the most. The world may be crazy, but as long as you have the love and support of your number one person, it can all seem more manageable. 

Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

However, here’s the rub: Stress, predictably, makes it harder for any of us to be the compassionate, patient, unconditionally loving person our partner needs us to be. We all cope with stress in different ways. Sometimes it’s along gender lines with men and women handling stress differently, but these differences can lead to emotional mis-matches and a communication gap between couples. This can lead both partners to feel disconnected from each other at the time they need each other the most. 

Communication Tips For Couples Under Stress

To help you improve your communication during this stressful time, I asked my colleague, online marriage counselor and relationship coach Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to share his couples counseling communication tips, and some of the communication exercises for couples that he does with his clients. 

Actionable Relationship Advice

Silas was incredibly generous with his relationship advice and his perspective. He is uniquely situated to provide fantastic relationship advice for any couple having communication problems right now, because 1) he’s a man, with great insights into how to understand men and how they deal with stress and 2) Silas is trained in the evidence-based Gottman Method of marriage counseling, which emphasizes couples communication training and positive communication skills for couples.

He discussed:

  • How some people (often men) tend to internalize stress and withdraw
  • How some people (often women) tend to exernalize stress and need to talk
  • How this (predictibly!) creates a communication gap and emotional mis-match
  • How to stop the ensuing pursue / withdraw cycle and start connecting again
  • How couples can understand each other so they can be more compassionate with each other
  • Exercises that couples can do to improve communication
  • How to get on the same page and create agreements and understanding
  • Ways of communicating with your partner in tense moments so that you can grow closer as a couple, instead of creating conflict

 

Communicate To Connect

I was so grateful to Silas for sharing so much really useful information for how to improve your communication when you’re both stressed. Better communication between couples leads to emotional safety and a more secure emotional foundation for both of you, and for your families too. We’re all powerless to change our current harrowing circumstances, but having a safe harbor of support and comfort in your marriage can help you get through this — together. 

I sincerely hope that the excellent, actionable communication tips Silas shared are helpful to both of you right now.

With love, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, LP, LMFT, BCC & Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFT-C

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Couples Communication Strategies For Stressful Times

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Let’s  Talk

Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

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