Our recent postings on stress have been dedicated to helping you use Dr. Gottman’s research to deal with stressors, form goals, and find balance in your life so that both you and your partner may grow closer in your relationship. In today’s posting, we would like to bring it all together by discussing how to handle stress from within your relationship. Building trust through stress management is one of the greatest gifts you can give each other. With that said, Dr. Gottman understands that your relationship may be a massive source of stress as well. If this is the case, you are certainly not alone, and his advice may come as a great relief!
If you have been meaning to change something about your relationship, but just haven’t had the time to get around to it, now is the time. Remember that your relationship is constantly evolving as you and your partner spend more and more time with one another. Your individual likes and dislikes may change more than you think. Reassess the state of your relationship, paying particular attention to how you both felt about your relationship over the past year. What aspect of your relationship was most satisfying? Most frustrating? Have you been sexually satisfied recently? If not, what would you like to see changed? What does your partner feel about each of these topics? Don’t have this conversation all at once to avoid making it a source of stress! Be open to talking about these issues regularly. Make it a habit.
Communication is extremely important when discussing these topics, as feelings of discontent may elicit a defensive response. Take turns letting each other speak, uninterrupted. Once you have each had a chance to voice your opinions, respond to each other’s comments. Do not make targeted suggestive attacks like “I don’t like the way you…” or “You need to…” Instead, make the conversation about your relationship as a whole by using positive statements like “I think we could…” or “We need to…” When “you” is changed to “we,” the conversation involves both parties. You become a team. When you are a team, and you don’t attack one another, you learn to trust each other.
Before making goals for your reducing the stress caused by your relationship, here are three tips to consider:
- Set realistic expectations: Do your best to think about the things you’d like to change as well as what a realistic change would look like. If you and your partner have been struggling, don’t expect change to happen overnight. However, making a long-term commitment to each other is the first step in getting your relationship to where you want it to be. Talk to each other about where you want your relationship to be in two months, six months, and by the end of the year
- Set both specific and holistic goals: Good resolutions focus on specific details as well as the bigger picture. While having a stronger relationship may be your ultimate goal, improving the way in which you communicate about your day at work or the way that you decide which TV show to watch at night make for specific goals that are extremely attainable. Relationships are already incredibly complex. Break your resolution down into smaller goals and it will seem a lot less daunting.
- Focus on the means, not just the ends: One of the best ways to set goals is to focus on the means of getting to where you want to be, not just focusing on where you want to be. Improving your relationship is a constant process! Enjoy the process of getting to know your partner on a more intimate level.
Now that you’re prepared to make resolutions for your relationship, what exactly do you want to change? How will you reduce the stress in your life that is caused by your relationship? Here are five resolutions from the Gottman Institute designed to improve the overall experience of your relationship, with an emphasis on improving your sexual happiness and healthiness. Choose some of these or develop some of your own this weekend – simply apply these ideas to the areas you feel are in need of change! Whatever your decision, what is most important is that you are both equally committed to achieving the same end goal.
- Make it a priority to nurture the fondness and admiration in your relationship. Fondness and admiration are crucial to the long-term happiness of a relationship because they prevent contempt – one of the four horsemen – from becoming an overwhelming presence in your life.
- Make it a priority to talk openly about sex with your partner. Intimate conversation builds emotional connection, leading to more passion in your lovemaking.
- Make it a priority to communicate more openly with your partner about your sexual needs and desires, specifically the way in which you communicate during sexual intercourse.
- Make it a priority to pay more attention to your partner’s bids for emotional connection.
- Make it a priority to develop love maps of your partner’s erotic inner world. What really sends them through the roof?
- Make it a priority to develop effective strategies for initiating and refusing sex so that neither partner feels rejected.
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