Stress impedes our lives in a variety of ways: too much traffic, paying bills, a nasty co-worker, or a mistaken lunch order, but the holiday season can be a huge stress trigger for many. The family obligations, the gift buying, the social events, it all can lead to stress. If we are not mindful of how we are coping with these exterior stressors, we can bring them home with us and these stressors can impact the quality of our relationship with our partner. Exterior stressors can cause us to have a short fuse. One useful Gottman technique for couples to reduce stress is to make a commitment to practicing the stress-reducing conversation.
This exercise allows us to practice “active listening.” "Active listening" differs from simply hearing our partner's words in that we listen with empathy and without any judgement. No one feels intimate attraction to their partner if they feel their partner is not listening to them. This is certainly true for me and I make sure my partner and I have all technology off when we have our stress-reducing conversations. I have found these conversations to only strengthen our love, appreciation and fondness for each other.
Please follow the rules below to ensure a rewarding conversation:
1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be the complainer for 10 minutes without interruption.
2. Don’t Interrupt. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is that understanding must precede advice.
3. Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay intently focused on your partner.
4. Empathize. Let your partner know that you understand what they are saying.
5. Take your partner’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think that your partner's perspective is illogical to you. It’s all about perspective! Your relationship is more important than your opinion about your partner's conversation with a co-worker or best friend. Understanding must precede advice.
6. We Are a Team. Let him or her know that the two of you are in this together.
7. Touch. Hug and hold your partner. Express that you love him or her.
8. Validate. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you by telling them just that.
Research has proven that if you work on your emotional life with your partner, you are also working on the physical part. If you feel unheard by your partner and rejected, chances are that you won’t be in the mood to make love. Try practicing a stress-reducing conversation this weekend and see how it affects the level of emotional attraction you feel for each other.