Sometimes when you’re feeling stressed, it’s tempting to close up and keep your worries to yourself. Maybe you don’t want to admit you’re having problems. Or if you’re both suffering from stressful events at the same time, maybe you don’t want to add to your partner’s troubles. But if you’re part of a couple, this kind of insular behavior can distance you from your partner. Which only creates more stress.
So how do you remain the close, loving couple you know you can be? It’s so easy when you’re both carefree. But when you’re both preoccupied by problems, what do you do?
- Acknowledge the problems. If you’re under an impossible deadline at work and your partner is struggling with financial woes, you both need to stop. Take a few minutes to tell each other what your problems are. Listen respectfully. Be compassionate. And understand that problems exist that you’ll have to deal with. It’s a start.
- Play on the same team. You and your partner are in this together. When you are both under stress at the same time, you can’t expect him to pick up the slack just because you’re working 24/7. In fact, if you get a chance, bring him a cup a coffee while he slaves over spreadsheets. Or let him know you miss him right now and things will get better soon. But right now you have to focus on work.
- Be flexible. If you’re both under stress simultaneously, you may have to adjust to letting the dishes pile up in the sink. Or you may have to take out the garbage even thought that’s his job. And you may have to carry the lion’s share of the emotional load when you’re not used to it. He needs your support more now than ever. You need to find it within yourself to give it—even though you could use some too.
- Don’t attack your partner. Yeah, it’s so easy to yell at him when you’re under the gun. Because you can’t yell at your boss. And you can let off steam without dire repercussions if you’re short with your partner instead of someone else. The problem is, there are repercussions—you can damage your relationship if you’re not careful. So think twice before you open your mouth. Attack the problem instead of your partner.
- Know your partner’s stress mode. People handle stress differently. You might binge watch Game of Thrones to get your mind off your problems. Your partner may play endless basketball with the guys. Whatever works. But realize you both have different ways of coping and one is not necessarily better or worse than the other. Just as long as you both find ways to address your issues.
- Triage your problems. What’s the biggest disaster you’re facing? That’s what needs to be dealt with first. Together you can prioritize what to work on, whether it’s together or separately. When you have a conversation about your problems and which one’s the most pressing, you face the issues together. And that’s comforting in and of itself.
- Share a touch and a laugh. Find the humor in your situation. Or your partner’s. Break the tension with a joke or a funny story. Take the time to rub her back as she hunches over her computer consumed in work. Even just a tender touch as you pass her in the hall. Small gestures can mean a lot when you’re up against it.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.