Have you noticed a difference in your communication with your partner over the last several months? Are you finding it more difficult than usual to discuss both positive and negative aspects of your relationship, selves, and life goals? Productive Communication is essential for any relationship – but when faced with extra stressors in your life, your ability to communicate through the current change could ultimately make or break your relationship. As an online marriage counselor and relationship coach, a large part of my work involves helping couples maintain productive communication in stressful times.
It’s not uncommon for couples to experience an uptick in stress when what feels like a relatively regular routine gets flipped on its side…we can probably all relate to this, right? When big things in your life change (changes in your job, dealing with a new baby, losing a parent, etc), your relationship can feel like it’s on the backburner, and new anxiety, confusion, and stress can be brought to the surface surrounding you and your partner.
I first want to tell you; you are not alone. We are all in this same boat together. It’s difficult enough to manage a regular life, relationship, and family structure but throw in massive change and an uncertain tomorrow and you have a whole new stress-mess to work through that can feel overwhelming and often lonely.
Today, I want to share three practical tips for productive communication to use when you and your partner are both stressed and ultimately doing the best you can!
Admit You’re Stressed Out
The first tip is to acknowledge to yourself and your partner that you are stressed. When life is constantly throwing things at you, it is very common to go into problem-solving mode. We are wired to prioritize our responsibilities first and think of ourselves last. You may feel the need to be strong for everyone around you, or it can be hard to admit when things get to you. But remember, your partner is your teammate, and ideally, they will be more than willing to help you shoulder some of your burdens. So don’t be afraid to let them know how you’re feeling!
A quick way to do this is to identify your stress level on a scale, say from 1 to 5. This allows you both to be aware of how your stress may be impacting how you interact with one another. It is also essential to be aware when you need additional support and skills to deal with your stress.
It is crucial that you increase your ability to manage stress. If we don’t acknowledge how we are doing, it is easy for us to take things personally. This can turn us away from one another when we need the support of each other the most.
If you find that your stress is consistently interfering with daily responsibilities or changing the way you see yourself and your partner, seeking an individual or couples counselor can help you learn to manage your stress in healthier ways, and teach your partner how to be a rock in your times of need. With the flexibility of online counseling, you can fit sessions anywhere in your busy schedule!
Figure Out Why You Need To Talk
The next tip is about coming to the conversations you have with a specific purpose. Before you begin talking about a difficult topic or when stress is at its highest, think about your goal for the conversation. Are you looking for space to vent about what is going on? Would you like your partner to give you their advice or opinion about something? Do you need reassurance and encouragement?
If you give the conversation a specific purpose and relay that to each other beforehand, you’ll be less likely to misunderstand each other, and make assumptions that can deepen the divide. Your partner also has a better idea of what they can do to contribute productively to the conversation. Stress can make it difficult to know how to help each other, and having a specific purpose will keep you both connected and on the same page.
Take It One Step at a Time
When stress creeps in, there can be a rush of thoughts and emotions that overwhelm you. Your mind could be running a mile a minute. This has a way of interfering with how we communicate.
Have you ever started talking about one thing, and then you are on a totally different topic a few minutes later? That is usually because our emotions have taken over the conversation, and we are now focusing on them instead of the issue at hand.
If you find that your conversations are bouncing from topic to topic, try to catch each distraction and redirect back to the original topic and purpose. You may say something like, “I noticed we have gotten off track, let’s refocus.” Then go back to the original topic. This can slow down the pace of the conversation and help you resolve one thing at a time.
Practice Makes Perfect!
You’re not going to have this figured out after one conversation, no matter how productive, and that’s ok. This will take time. You and your partner will need to work and be conscious of how you communicate in the hardest of times. However, with practice and persistence, what used to feel like impossible hurdles will only help to bring you closer together.
Here’s to productive communication!
Meet Teresa: a positive, strengths-based therapist, marriage and family therapist, parent coach, and life coach with a knack for helping people get to the root of their issues so that they can establish strong foundations for long-term change. She helps couples, families, and individuals heal, grow, and feel good again.
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