It is a mistake to believe that we never change, that we are always the same person. We, as well as our partner, are always evolving, always developing. In fact, we have been a different person just one hour ago. We change our view on things with new information, just as we discover the story of a book by reading it page by page. Only that our next page is undefined and we can decide what it shall contain. Our self-image will define the next pages.
Our story is in our hands and our self-image is in our hands, too. Though much of our relationship routines are steered by unconscious thought-patterns, there are certain ways to influence the stress level of our relationship. Here are the top 8 strategies for coping with stress in a relationship when dealing with your self-image.
This article is part of the series: Coping with Stress in a Relationship. Check out the overview to find more useful advice on relationship stress.
1. Escape the negativity cycle
The negativity cycle refers to the deep entanglement of your feelings, your behavior, and your thoughts. They can each be powerful allies in the pursuit of a stress-free relationship, but at the same time, they can be your major stress source. Negative thoughts will cause negative behavior which in turn will cause negative feelings – a vicious cycle.
Coping with stress in a relationship is only possible if you acknowledge this natural cycle and use it to your advantage. In fact, the goal is to turn the negativity cycle into a positivity cycle. The moment you change your negative behavior into a positive one, you are likely to experience a good feeling and will thus have positive thoughts.
For example: let’s assume you see dirty dishes left by your partner. Instead of getting angry and starting a discussion, you are free to change your behavior and either ignore the dishes so your partner has more time to wash them, or you do it yourself without any need for compensation. Your reward will be ease of mind and a stressful situation successfully avoided.
2. Challenge hypotheses about your relationship
Sometimes, our creativity leads us to imagine the wildest things about what our partner might be thinking. We try to predict their thoughts and actions as if we could look into their heads. Or we tend to see ourselves in the middle of all situations. Everything our partner is doing seems to be intended for us. So when our partner is talking to a friend about how stressful their day was, we might get offended although our partner may have been talking about their work.
Effectively coping with stress in a relationship involves double-checking if the stressor is real or if we are manufacturing the stressor.
3. Understand that your thoughts are your opinion and not facts
Every relationship has arguments with both parties having different viewpoints. Stress levels will increase the more stubborn we insist on our view. Acknowledging that our view is actually not a fact but our opinion will help us to also acknowledge our partner’s opinion. Your partner will notice your openness and relax a bit. Don’t be stubborn and open yourself up for your partner’s opinions.
4. Deal with the stress triggers in your relationship
Sometimes, your partner’s friend or family member can cause a fight between you two. Other times, it can be the morning routines. It can be a certain place or it can be a certain activity – every relationship has its unique stress triggers. Know yours and deal with them. Talk about why they stress you out and if there is a way to change them. Your partner will appreciate your honesty and it will be easier to cope with these stressors when you do it together.
5. Recall tough situations you overcame as a couple
While stressful events draw our full attention to the immediate situation, it is a helpful strategy to step back and see the big picture. Especially, seeing all the past situations that you have been through together. Every relationship has its ups and downs and it will give you the confidence to fight off stress when you remember your joint achievements.
6. Remember the highlights of your relationship
Just as recalling how you as a couple managed tough situations, it is equally helpful to focus on the good in your relationship. Everything that you really like about your partner and your time together, every beautiful event you experienced together. In times of relationship stress, this positive distraction will likely ease your stress and allow you to step back from the acute problem to see how small it really is. Coping with stress in a relationship, therefore, is about strategies to put stressors into perspective and focus on the good things.
7. Acknowledge your and your partner’s emotions
While self-control and willpower have their place in stress coping strategies, it does not mean to ignore or avoid your emotions, especially the negative ones. Instead, you should fully feel your emotions, explore their source and accept them for what they are. The crucial aspect is what you make of them. Will your emotions guide your actions in a heated discussion with your partner or will you be able to act after thinking, although you feel strong emotions?
8. Take decisions and accept the consequences
Being accountable for your own decisions is crucial to cope with stress in a relationship. It will give you the self-confidence to go after your personal goals and it will give your partner clarity about what you want. The openly you communicate, the clearer your relationship will be. Taking decisions and accepting the consequences dramatically develops your relationship into a stress-free life together.
There you have it, these are the big 8 stress coping strategies for relationship stress.
This article is part of the series: Coping with Stress in a Relationship. Check out the overview to find more useful information on relationship stress.
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