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Can Stressful Life Events Really Bring a Couple Together?

family happy after regularly engaging in stress reducing conversation at thrive therapy in tampa florida

Are you and your partner experiencing the stress of a major life event such as moving to another house, adding a new baby to the family, or considering a job change?

What if I told you there was a way to discuss one of these stressors with your partner that would actually cause a reduction in stress, not turn into a fight, and ultimately improve your sex life?

Dr. John Gottman, a relationship researcher who can accurately predict divorce in 91% of couples he meets within the first five minutes, has outlined a shift to the daily “how was your day dear” conversation to one that can have a significant benefit to your relationship, especially if used on a regular basis.

couple practicing stress reducing conversation at Thrive Therapy in Tampa Fl

The Stress Reducing Conversation

The intention of this conversation is to help each partner manage the stress that is not caused BY your relationship, but the stressors you encounter in your daily life OUTSIDE of the relationship.

Problems in your job, or with friends or family members often end up creeping into relationships fueling conflict without the awareness of the couple.

The stress reducing conversation is recommended so that these outside triggers don’t seep into your relationship creating more conflict than it should.

Couples who are drowning in stress who do not talk about it with each other tend to see their emotional attraction to each other fade, and subsequently experience suffering IN the relationship unnecessarily due to these outside stressors.

The emotional attraction you have for your partner is largely determined by the ways in which you regularly communicate, so using this technique may cause a decrease in conflict in your relationship and help increase feelings of attraction toward one another.

The main rule that is critical to follow in having a stress-reducing conversation is: it can only be about stress OUTSIDE of your relationship.

This does not work when discussing areas of conflict within the relationship. It also does not work if you take this as an opportunity to instruct your partner how to fix things. It’s an opportunity to offer support – which does not mean it is a time for creating solutions.

Understanding what your partner is going through should always precede offering any kind of advice.

If these conversations aren’t even about the relationship, how could it possibly improve things?

Research shows emotional attraction is equally as important as physical attraction in a relationship. The stress reducing conversation actually increases emotional attraction which, in turn, can positively affect a couple’s sex life!

Emotional attraction – and ultimately sexual attraction – develops when a partner feels they are being listened to, when they experience respect, when they feel accepted, and when they sense genuine caring from their partner.

The stress reducing conversation allows you to connect to your partner on a more intimate level and intensify your feelings toward one another.

This is the secret to great sex. By enhancing the emotional attraction in your relationship, great sex is a potential bonus for those who engage in this conversation on a regular basis.

So try it out!

How do I do it?

Drawing from the technique of “active listening,” the stress reducing conversation has 7 rules to guide the discussion towards success in building intimacy in your relationship.

1. Take Turns. Each partner gets to be “the complainer” for fifteen minutes, so identify who gets to go first, and focus solely on that issue.

2. Don’t offer advice. This is not the time for solutions or problem solving. In order to help your partner decrease their stressful feelings, it is very important that you convey understanding to your partner – as this has to come first before giving advice.

3. Convey genuine interest. Stay focused on what your partner is saying, ask questions to better understand what they mean, maintain eye contact, show your partner that you care what they are talking about.

4. Communicate that you understand. As your partner is expressing themselves, let your partner feel you share in their feelings and understand what they are saying. When you feel the urge to give advice, instead say something like:

“I can see why that would make you feel upset.”

“That sounds very upsetting”

“It’s so reasonable for you to feel that way”

“I’d be angry too.”

“That would have hurt my feelings too.”

5. Be on your partner’s side no matter what. By adopting a “we against others” attitude, your partner feels the two of you are in this together as couple practicing stress reducing conversation thrive therapy floridaa team. And yes, this means being supportive, EVEN IF you might disagree with your partner’s perspective. If the goal is to reduce stress/enhance intimacy in your relationship, that goal is likely more important than your opinion about what you think happened or should have happened.

Remember, all emotions have value and it’s your job to step into and understand what your partner is feeling and why before offering any kind of advice or making assumptions about what you think might be going on.

6. Show affection. Physical touch (with your partner’s permission) can be a great way to convey your affection. Hold your partner’s hands while talking, rub their feet, put an arm on his or her shoulder, and/or say, “I love you.”

7. Validate your partner’s emotions. Make your partner feel their emotions are reasonable. You can do this by simply naming the emotions you see: “you feel mad” or “that makes you feel sad.” Tell your partner their feelings make sense to you.

It can help if you set up a time that works for the both of you to regularly have the conversation, as you may find some partners want to immediately talk when they get home and others may want some time to decompress. Allow for 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted or dedicated time to each other, which can feel difficult, but is ultimately worth it.

Remember these issues have nothing to do with your marriage, so do everything you can not to bring issues with your marriage into the discussion. And honor all emotions that arise.

You may find yourself feeling uncomfortable if your partner is expressing fear, sadness or anger, so it may be important to check with yourself as to why that may trigger you so much. Some people have been raised to think expressing negative emotion is bad, however all emotions have value and should be welcomed into this conversation.

Sometimes this conversation is easier said than done, and it can be helpful to practice in a controlled setting such as a counseling room.

Thrive Therapy exists to support couples, both happy and unhappy, to learn and practice basic techniques proven to enhance a relationship in which you feel safe.

The next time you’re feeling stressed about an event or something outside of your relationship, practice this technique to deal with your stress, feel closer to your partner and ultimately enhance your sex life!

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

couple practicing stress reducing conversation at Thrive Therapy in Tampa Fl

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