• Keith Fowler

Stress Reducing Conversation – helping your stressed partner 

Here are some straightforward instructions for having a stress-reducing conversation.

Approach the “how was your day?” conversation from a new perspective, draw on ideas from the following exercise.

Note: This exercise draws on the technique of “active listening.” The goal is to listen (not just hear) to the speaker’s words with empathy and without judgment.

This listening technique can be extremely beneficial if specifically employed during discussions where you aren’t your partner’s target. It will help you feel more supportive and understanding of your partner (and vice versa), strengthening your mutual love and trust.

Here are eight guiding rules for having this conversation:

1. Take Turns.Each partner gets to be the complainer for a designated amount of time, say 10 minutes max.

2. Don’t give unsolicited advice. The major rule when helping your partner de-stress is understanding before advice.

3. Show genuine interest. Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Try to stay focused on your partner (hence 10 minutes max).

4. Communicate your understanding. Let your partner know that you can empathise with what they are saying.

5. Take your partner’s side. This means being supportive, even if you think that part of what they are saying is unreasonable. Don’t lose perspective. Remember your relationship is important to you, it is likely more important than your opinion on the topic.

6. Express a “we against others” attitude. Let your partner know that the two of you are in this together. You are a team and issues that you have should not come between you. You both intentionally present a united front against anything that would strive to divide you.

7. Express affection. This can look different depending on your relationship, so do what looks like affection for you. That can be as simple as putting your arm around their shoulders or saying, “I love you.”

8. Validate emotions. Let your partner know that his or her feelings make sense to you by telling them just that.

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