11 Ways to Decrease Relationship Stress

by Jonathan

11 Ways to Decrease Relationship Stress

Stress has an insidious way of undermining every aspect of our health and happiness. Nowhere is this more obvious then in our closest and most valued relationships. Have the anxieties and pressures of daily life or a constricting economy begun to seep into your home life?

When we are stressed out, we need to feel that our home is a safe haven where we can find relief and comfort. A happy relationship can make all the difference during challenging times. Sadly, more and more couples are experiencing the divisive influence of outside stress in their relationship with their mate.

Growing closer while facing challenges

Are there steps we can take to protect the happiness of our relationship during trying times? When the pressure rises, is there some way for couples to actually draw closer rather than allowing their relationship to be torn apart?

Handled correctly, challenging experiences can actually bring couples closer together. This is not to say that they will be immune to the stress. What it means is that working together and facing their challenges as a unified partnership can deepen their bond and add new depth to their relationship.

11 ways to decrease relationship stress

1. Avoid making negative assumptions. If something happens that you have no control over, don’t make things worse by assuming the worst. If someone loses their job it doesn’t help to conclude that you will also lose your home and everything you have worked for. Instead of focusing on the negative possibilities, sit down with your mate and discuss possible solutions. If you work together in a creative way you may be able to turn this challenge into an opportunity. This is the time to let your partnership shine.

2. Don’t be critical or assign blame. The blame game is very destructive to a relationship and it never contributes to unity. The goal here is to draw closer as a couple, not to alienate your best friend and life partner. The same goes for being critical of one another, all that will do is divide the relationship. Let’s face it, sometimes bad things happen, that’s just the way life is. Looking at each challenge as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship bond will help you avoid the temptation to blame your mate.

3. Acknowledge your partner’s concerns. If something goes wrong and we feel responsible, it is easy to turn defensive when our partner expresses their concerns. Rather that turning it into a confrontation by defending ourselves, we need to put our egos aside and acknowledge their concerns with an understanding heart. If we are truly partners then we are in it together. That means we probably have similar concerns that we need to work on in a spirit of cooperation.

4. Respond rather than react. The difference between a response and a reaction has to do with the amount and type of emotion that’s involved. When we just react to bad news it is very likely that our reaction will also include a negative emotional component. If we choose to respond rather than react, our knee jerk reaction will be softened by our desire to maintain peace and unity in our relationship. A response allows room for more positive emotions like compassion and understanding.

5. Honor each other’s feelings. The way men and women respond to stress is often very different. To the man, it might seem like she is attaching too much emotional significance to the situation. To the woman, it might seem like he is just blowing it off or ignoring the problem. Recognizing that we all express our concerns in different ways makes it easier to honor the feelings and expressions of our mate. The fact that we express our feelings differently does not mean that one person’s way is more valid than their mate’s, it’s just different.

6. Identify the real source of the stress. If we are feeling stress in our relationship, we need to figure out where it is coming from. If the source of the stress is external (outside the relationship), don’t treat it like a relationship problem. See it for what it is! Statistically, money issues account for more relationship problems than any other source. But in reality, money is a financial problem. It only becomes a relationship problem if you let it. Working together as partners is a much more effective way to solve money problems than fighting about it.

7. Treat your mate with respect. There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. How sad is that? Unfortunately, we tend to be less resourceful when we are under stress. The last thing we want to do under those conditions is be disrespectful to the person we share our life with. In reality, it’s not familiarity that breeds contempt; it’s a lack of respect and consideration. You can promote unity and decrease relationship stress by always maintaining a high level of respect for your partner, regardless of the challenges you face.

8. Seek opportunities to encourage each other. How do you feel when your partner expresses confidence in you? It’s encouraging, isn’t it? And this is especially true during those challenging times when you may be experiencing feelings of self-doubt. Nothing lifts us up and restores our confidence like the encouragement of our special someone. Mutual encouragement is one of the most powerful anti-stress tools your relationship has, be sure to make good use of it. Instead of waiting for stressful situations to present themselves, why not seek every opportunity to be encouraging.

9. Differentiate between the relationship and the problem. It is vital to always recognize the difference between the actual relationship and the problems and challenges you face. The love you feel for one another needs to be protected from the problems you encounter. Confusing the two is relationship suicide. To do this we need to work at confining our response to stress so it doesn’t poison our feeling about our mate.

10. Reaffirm your partnership often. It is important to remind yourself that you are allies in every struggle and challenge. Remind each other that you are there for your mate no matter what. If you make a mistake, being quick to apologize demonstrates your commitment to the partnership. Being forgiving has a similar effect. Regularly letting your partner sense how much you value the relationship will help clear away any doubts caused by trying situations.

11. Get help if you need it. When things get confusing, don’t be too proud or stubborn to seek qualified help. Sometimes we are so close to a situation that we lose our objectivity. An impartial third party like a relationship coach can often see things much more clearly and provide valuable insight at just the right time. If we truly value our closest relationship then we should be willing to do whatever it takes to strengthen those special bonds of love and unity.

Have you experienced an increase in relationship stress?
How do you keep your relationship strong when faced with challenges?
The lines are open!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

David Stevens

Hi Jonathan,
Great points & lessons here…..I’m stressed to the max though it keeps my juices flowing.
be good to yourself

Reply

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Thanks David, I am surprised, you never come across as stressed. Anything I can help with?

Reply

David Stevens

Not at this point Jonathan, however I appreciate your thoughts.
be good to yourself

Reply

Rob

Something that I find does a lot to help when you still want to criticize your partner’s actions – also throw in something that you could have done better.

If you’re being as critical on yourself you can help lighten the blow of light criticism.

And if it starts turning into a fight, just don’t get angry. Re-affirm your position. Make a joke to lighten the mood if you have to.

Regardless, great advice here, Jonathan.

Reply

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

That’s a good point Rob, mutual responsibility takes the sting out of loving counsel. This is especially effective if we acknowledge or own shortcomings first. The word criticize can raise defenses all by its self. I have found that phrases like ‘loving counsel’ or ‘ways we can both improve’ can be much easier for others to accept.

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marc

Great tips, Jonathan!

Responding rather than reacting is something very valuable. The response of the heart is so much more powerful than the reaction of the mind. But is not so easy to drop the idea of reaction – using a learned pattern of the past to deal with the current situation. Responding requires a lot of self trust – and trust in your partner.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Reply

Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

Very good points Marc, the good stuff always requires a little extra effort, but it’s worth it.

Reply

Nancy

Hello Jonathan,

I haven’t been by in a while and glad I stopped in for a few minutes.

Great article and you make some very healthy boundary points. Accountability/Responsiblity and Healthy Boundaries – very important.

The one I like the most is RESPECT!

It’s simple but we make things so complicated at times.
Nancy

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Debbie @ happymaker

Hi Jonathan,

Wonderful tips. They are all great, but to me the one that can get you in real trouble is number 4. Respond rather than react. Some little thing will happen and your first reaction is to “Just react.” When we take a few deep breaths we will respond in a loving way rather than just react.

In my relationships I try to feel with the heart and all times, than breath and think with the mind. This keeps me balanced.

If ever one used your 11 tips there would not be as many divorces.
Thanks and have a great weekend,
Debbie

Reply

Anne @ confidence building

I truly relate to your point about respect. So many people fall out of love because they’re not being respected in a relationship. We’re adults by the time we marry, so respect is a huge thing to keep a couple jelling together properly. If you weren’t being respected at work, you’d leave. If the same thing happened with friends, you’d leave, so it’s important that people realise that they can argue and disagree while still being respectful to each other.

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Leslie Green

Jonathan, great post — all important points to note. I, like Debbie above, agree that #4 (Respond vs. React) can get you in a real pickle, real fast. Being mindful of that one is a real game changer for me.

I find that when I don’t take things personally, I’m much more likely to respond, and not react (and hopefully never OVER-react). No, I’m sure I’d never do that. :-)

Thank you again for the thoughtful and thorough post.

~ Leslie

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Katie

This is a great list of healthy, positive things couples can do to create more unity and decrease stress in relationships. How quick most of us are to react negatively and blame each other, instead of handling conflict in a relationship with a healthy approach. Great post!

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Jan Stevens

This is such a great blog! I appreciate so much the 11 things you listed because I believe those things will not just help decrease the stress in marriages or any type of relationship, for that matter, it will also develop and create better communication among them. I like number 9, especially, because it happens to so many couples where our personal or individual stresses and problems seep into the relationship and usually cause a negative shift to it. Thanks for this!

Reply

Henri

Point 1, point 1, point 1.
I am reading an incredible book titled “Drive yourself sane” as I read this post and I can’t help but agree with all my heart with that first point you made : don’t make assumptions.

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