Stress and Relationships Week 4: What Else Can I Do For My Partner?
All month I have been sharing different tips and tricks to help lessen the stress on your relationships and create a relationship filled with emotional closeness, renewed intimacy and, if done right, could even revive their romance. Relationships are not all rainbows and sprinkles… it takes a lot of work to create an amazing relationship. Everyday stress, compounded by pandemic stress has created a whole new type of relationship stress that can put strain on even the most resilient couples. The good news is that when couples can create functional ways of coping with stress they can learn how to create a more powerful relationship.
Even the most resilient couples can become immune to the symptoms and warning signs of stress since it has become such a normalized part of our day. Some of us are so accustomed of running on empty and being overwhelmed and over-burdened that we don’t remember life not feeling this way. That is how chronic stress can creep into your life and start to take over. Ignoring our stress only makes it worse. When we do ignore it, it can fester until one partner explodes with frustration. I know I’m not the only one to speak from experience, this is not a place where you want to be in your relationship.
Here is the other factor you need to take note of; stress is also contagious. When one person is tense, the other person can pick up on the tension and “put up their dukes” to prepare for a battle. Stress can show up in actions, behavior and in verbal and non-verbal communications. It will affect both partners and the crux of their relationship. The more stressed out the couples are, the more they can quarrel, bicker or fight. The higher the stress, the more likely they may withdraw from each other, feel disconnected, sad, frustrated or angry. Unchecked stress that is ongoing can create long term problems within a relationship. Long-term stress can lead to depression, isolation, anxiety and social ineptness. All of these can create distance between partners.
Do you feel this within your current relationship? Can you see where stress may be the underlying issue? Partners who are stressed are not able to relax and truly enjoy each other because their minds are focused on the tension and when the other shoe will drop.
Relationship troubles begin when one partner shuts out the other and doesn’t express their stress. Normally this isn’t done intentionally, but it can still be very destructive to a relationship. This is one of the dysfunctional ways of coping with stress. When couples keep their conversations on an intellectual level and not talk about what is happening in their lives or how their hearts feel it can make or break a relationship.
When individuals and couples can learn and use more functional ways of coping with stress, they will be able to restore their emotional closeness, renew their intimacy and revive their romance with their partner. If your stress is pushing you further from your partner, take time to realize it, make some changes and seek help.
Today’s tips will focus on what more you can do for your partner and within the relationship to help you take action steps toward transforming your relationship and bring more passion into it instead of frustration and disappointment.
Enjoy these tips you can use to make sure you are in tune with your partner and can continue to create a place of peace, harmony and bliss:
What else could I do? We will not be able to fully ease our partner’s stress completely, but we can look for the subtle clues that they are not happy or are more stressed than normal and see how you can help. Think to yourself, “Am I doing everything I possibly can to support my partner’s happiness?”
We all have the power to bounce back from stress, trauma and tragedy, but it will vary between people. The stronger your psychological resilience the better your ability to cope with different stress in your life. If you feel that you and your partner have week resilience, there are ways to build it. The hardest part is to recognize and be aware that you are lacking in psychological resilience. When you are able to do this you will be able to pinpoint situations and stress that will trigger your response. This is where it is important to create your coping strategies “tool-box” to use for any type of stressful situation that occurs. If your spouse has a bad day will you offer them time by themselves while you prepare dinner? Could you suggest they take a bath or hot shower with some essential oils? Could you suggest they do something from their coping strategies list to help them calm down after a long hard day? These are all options you can keep in your “back pocket” in case a situation comes up out of the blue. Knowing what will help your partner calm down and back to the present moment is just as important as actually doing the task. Be aware, offer suggestions and support and go with the flow.
Get socially connected with your partner. Social isolation weakens resilience, but social connection can strengthen it. When partners work on their connections, they will create a stronger bond. Learn how to identify each other’s bids for connection and respond to each other by turning toward each other and not pushing away. When you can create rituals of connection you will cultivate fondness and admiration for each other.
Find social groups you both enjoy participate in weekly or monthly gatherings. Find that shared common interest and play with it. If you and your partner share a stressor, connect with a support group who are dealing with the same issue. Say you are both stressed because one of your family members has cancer and is fighting for their life. Find a support group to help you. There are many other people who have gone through this and can offer some great support.
Take care of yourself. Don’t forget to do things that you enjoy doing on your own. This can help restore your balance, ground you and support your body, mind and soul. You may like yoga, while your partner likes to run. Both are great because you can do them on your own and do something with your partner another time. Find that quiet time just for yourself every single day. It really only needs to take 10-15 minutes to sneak in some “me time” in order to feel calm and relaxed. Listen to a couple of your favorite songs. Dance to the music. Journal about your gratitudes for the day. Read a couple of chapters in your book. Color in an elaborate coloring book. Take a walk around the block and look for the robins. Savor a cup of tea, coffee or snack and daydream as you look at the clouds. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish, it’s necessary to keep your mind, body and soul aligned and happy.
Discovering, creating and practicing what you have passion for can restore your sense of meaning and purpose. This is extremely important to resiliency. Practicing gratitude daily is a very effective tool for improving mental and emotional health. Exercise, good nutrition, quality sleep and down time also help counteract the effect stress can have on overall health. What do you have a passion for? Is it working with animals or children? Is it philanthropy and volunteering in your community? Is it doing needlepoint, crossword puzzles, cooking, or tinkering in the garage? Take time to discover what passion lies within and practice it as much as you can. Encourage your partner to do the same. Not only will this give you purpose, but it can also be a way to release stress, learn something new and gain resilience.
Create and follow goals. When you and your partner write down the ways you individually will cope with your stress you will develop actions you can take every day to help you move through this with ease. Set individual goals as well as agree to goals you would like to work on together to bring the changes you want to see in the next few months to years. Work out a plan or strategy for each goal and how you will track it and evaluate it if it needs to be modified. For example, you could state that personally you are going to do yoga three days a week to help lower your stress and you will be more mindful and be more in tune to your partners “bids for connection” every week. Make sure you follow up with yourself and your partner to hold yourself accountable. Were you able to do your goal of three days a week, or were you only able to do one day this week, but you made it a point to walk around the block on your lunch break and took a 10 minute “day dream” break before making dinner one night. Every little bit helps. Check in with your partner too on a weekly or monthly basis and see how they are doing. I have some amazing friends who vow to hold a “State of the House” meeting every Tuesday night where they go over specific things that need to be discussed regarding the home and any issues that should be addressed without judgement. They are one of the happiest and most resilient couples I know. Create this with your partner and agree on a day/time each week to go over any issue that may be “bugging” you so that it doesn’t escalate.
Update your Love Map of your partner. Dr. Gottman https://www.gottman.com/ calls the part of your brain where you store details about your partner’s life, likes, dislikes, fears and dreams is called their Love Map. His research shows that couples who keep up to date Love Maps on their partners will have happier marriages and be more prepared to handle any stressful situations that pop up. Stressful events can change your partner’s view of themselves, the world and even how they may handle specific stresses in their lives. Make note of these things so you know how to better offer love, compassion and empathy when your partner needs it. Ask your partner how their stressors have changed how they feel about their future, security, relationships or even their job. This will create an emotional closeness and a deeper intimacy between you twoand could revive a dormant romance.
How are you able to be present for your partner and offer support, guidance, compassion, empathy and more love?