Turning Toward: How Stressed Couples Can Support Each Other

Written by: Will Goodwin, M.A
Turning Toward: How Stressed Couples Can Support Each Other

In a world where stress is often a common household guest, managing our reactions and maintaining positive connections with our spouses can be challenging. However, learning to turn towards rather than away from each other during stressful times can significantly strengthen a relationship. Here are some practical ways to achieve this:

1. Recognize the Signs of Stress:
First and foremost, acknowledge when you’re stressed. It’s crucial to be aware of your body’s signals, such as tensed shoulders, a tight stomach, or a general feeling of unease. Likewise, it can be valuable to grow in familiarity with your partner’s signals of stress (tone of voice, body language, common sources of stress, etc.) This awareness can prevent the stress from escalating and affecting your interactions with your spouse.

2. Employ Quick Stress-Relief Techniques:
Before engaging with your partner, take a moment to reduce your stress level. Techniques such as the S.T.O.P. method (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed) can be particularly effective. This involves taking a brief pause from whatever you’re doing, taking a few deep breaths, and observing your current emotional state before proceeding.

3. Initiate Connection:
For many of us, experiencing stress can lead us to withdraw from others. Instead of withdrawing, try choosing to engage. This can be as simple as sharing your stressful experience with your spouse or asking for a few minutes of their time to talk. Opening up about your stressors can turn a potential disconnect into a moment of connection.

4. Listen Actively:
In times when your spouse is also stressed, you can make that a moment of connection by playing the role of listener. Active listening involves fully concentrating on what is being said and your spouse’s emotional state rather than passively hearing the message of the speaker. This demonstrates empathy and validates their feelings, which can help both of you feel more connected.

5. Plan Stress-Reducing Activities Together:
Engage in activities that both of you find relaxing. It could be a walk, a shared hobby, or simply watching a favorite show together. Shared activities can not only reduce stress but also reinforce the bond of fondness and admiration between you.

6. Maintain Physical Closeness:
Physical touch can be incredibly comforting and soothing in moments of stress. A hug, a gentle touch on the arm, or holding hands can release oxytocin, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm and connection.

Turning towards each other in times of stress involves a conscious decision to connect and communicate rather than withdraw into individual coping tactics. By adopting these approaches, couples can foster a supportive environment, enhancing their relationship resilience against the inevitable stresses of life.