The Stress Reducing Conversation 
A conversation to help you and your partner reduce stress.

We are all stressed, all day, all the time...the good and the bad. If you find that the "bad" stress is spilling over onto your relationship try approaching the “how was your day, dear?” conversation from a new perspective. One that helps you turn towards each other rather than turning away.

Following are the guidelines for talking with your partner when he/she feels stressed about issues that are not related to your relationship. The purpose of the conversation is to support your partner particularly when your partner is interested in complaining or venting. This is about helping your partner manage stress in her/his life that is not caused by the relationship.

Remember you are talking about non-relationship issues.

     Decide who goes first. 

         Partner 1: Choose a topic that is causing stress in your life and talk for about 5 minutes

         Partner 2: While your partner talks, respond in the following way. Then switch.

Show genuine interest. Stay focused on your partner; don’ let your mind or eyes wander. Nod, say “uh, huh”.

Ask questions about things that are not clear, so you can gain more understanding about the issues your partner is bringing up.

Communicate your understanding: “I can see why you feel this way”, “What a bummer” “I’d be stressed out too”, “I can see why you like this or dislike that so
much”. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathize with his/her dilemma.

Don’t give unsolicited advice. If you quickly suggest a solution your partner will feel dismissed. When stressed, your partner is looking for a good listener or a 
shoulder to cry on. Understanding MUST precede advice.

Take your spouse’s side even if you think her/his perspective is unreasonable. This is not about being dishonest, but timing is important. When your partner comes
to you for emotional support (not for advice) your job is not to cast judgment or tell your partner what to do. Your job is to say a variation of “I am so sorry you are 
going through this”.

Express a “we against others” attitude. Let her/him know that you are in this together. Your partner may be feeling alone in this and you could express some form 
of solidarity.

Express affection. Hold your partner; put your arm around his or her shoulder, say, “I love you”. 

This skill draws on the technique of “active listening.” The goal of active listening is to listen (not just hear) to the speaker’s words with empathy and without judgment. Hearing refers to the sounds that you hear, whereas listening requires more than that: it requires focus. Listening means paying attention not only to the story, but how it is told, the use of language and voice, and how the other person uses his or her body. You certainly won’t be feeling less stressed or even connected to your partner if you feel like they aren’t listening to you.  Listening is a true gift that we can give to another person.


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