Stress, the Relationship Killer
By the time Sunday evening arrived I was decidedly grumpy. This was a big shift from the ‘high as a kite mood’ that Saturday delivered. After almost two years of house renovations I could see a dream nearing realisation. The vision turned me into some sort of demon. I wielded the paintbrush at the speed of a Samurai Warrior’s sword in battle.
My mood changed, growing darker with the fading light. Things went wrong, I felt tired of painting, renovating and the house in general. Thoughts of all the tasks needing my attention over the coming week made me feel even worse.
Coping with stress
The conversation with my partner that evening was stilted and I became annoyed with myself, no, ashamed, for being a little childish with my communication. Finally, I took my own advice and talked about the things that bothered me. I was listened to, and my mood climbed onto an elevator.
We all experience periods of stress. Renovating a home, coping with young children, parenting a stroppy adolescent, starting a business and making ends meet on a tight budget are just a few of the numerous stresses everyday life brings.
Stress can be positive! The challenge of getting the house painted motivated me. I felt good, energised and responded by being very productive. However, when things went wrong the pressure became too intense and the stress turned negative.
Common responses to prolonged negative stress may be anxiety, anger, depression and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Having an affair, gambling and excessive drinking are a few of the many possible behaviours that can be fuelled by negative stress.
Turning towards your partner
Turning away from your partner in the face of negative stress, for example, withdrawing and not communicating, adds another stress to a compounding problem. Having an affair, or spending your time gambling, are just other forms of turning away. Each time we turn away, we reduce our emotional relationship bank balance. Continually turning away courts emotional bankruptcy, and relationship death.
Turning towards your partner in the face of negative stress can strengthen a relationship, for example, talking about the difficulties you face builds trust in the relationship and encourages intimacy. Couples who share their lives with understanding and care will find ways to solve problems. Turning towards your partner is a natural anti-stress medication.
The types of conversations we have with our partners tell us whether we are turning towards them or away from them. Do you talk with your partner about the good and bad things in your day ? Do you discuss your dreams and fears, especially the silly ones, or let them know what you appreciate about them? If the answer is yes, congratulations! If the answer is no, try having these conversations for the next two weeks and see if it makes a difference to your relationship.
Try using a Love Jar
A healthy emotional bank account makes it easier to turn towards someone and more difficult to kill a relationship. Try using a Love Jar. No it’s not a marital aid, it is a fun way to create a healthy bank balance. Here’s what you do:
- Both write down twenty things you would like your partner to do for you . It could be a cup of tea in the morning, having a favourite meal cooked for you or a foot massage etc.
- Make sure your requests are manageable and do not involve sex (although a number of couples have reported an improvement in this area after introducing the Love Jar).
- Do not ask for something that your partner dislikes doing.
- Make sure your requests are on separate pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a jar.
- Each of you takes a request from the jar at night and completes it the next day.
Try this for two weeks, along with the conversations, and look for improvements in your couple life.
Remember that it takes two people to Tango, so the Love Jar exercise won’t work unless you are both willing.