Stress Reducing Conversation
Updated: Jun 9
Lianne Perry, MA, MSc., RCC
Stress Reducing Conversation – Earning Points In The Emotional Bank Account
One of the most common complaints of the couples I see in my practice is that they’ve drifted apart, lost connection, or feel like they no longer really know what’s going on in their partner’s inner world. Put simply, in the beginning stages of a relationship, there tends to be a lot of talking and sharing of each other’s stresses, worries, fears, dreams, and hopes. Over time, with increasingly busy lives, those conversations tend to fall by the wayside and discussions become primarily about everyday, logistical things. You’ve been together a long time, but feel like you don’t really know your partner, or like you’re living separate lives.
What is clear from Gottman research is that couples who are able to buffer their relationships from external stressors and create a peaceful, supportive home just do better, overall. They are better able to maintain positive changes and keep a feeling of connection between them. One of the ways to do this is to incorporate what the Gottmans call the “stress reducing conversation” for 20 minutes at the end of each day.
In a stress reducing conversation, you each take turns talking about something recent or upcoming that you’re feeling some discomfort or stress over. The key to remember here is that whatever you talk about should be external to the relationship. For example, you might talk about an issue that is going on at work or some other non-relationship-based stress. This is not the time to bring up something that might cause you both stress, like an upcoming visit with the in-laws, or something your partner might be doing that you find upsetting. Save those conversations for your weekly “State of the Union” meetings.
Take turns being speaker and listener and keep the following important guidelines in mind:
· Know that understanding must come before any advice-giving.
· Be interested and curious. Ask questions and be engaged in what your partner is saying.
· Communicate that you understand. “That’s tough. I’d be stressed out too!”
· Don’t side with the enemy. You’re on the same team.
· Convey solidarity. “This problem is ours and we’re going to face it together”.
· Be affectionate. Touch them while they speak, hold their hand, let them know you’re there for them.
· Convey appropriate emotions like interest, excitement, fear, sadness etc.
· Watch that you don’t become defensive or critical, and that you don't ignore or fail to respond.
Ask your partner if they feel understood yet. If not, then ask some open-ended questions to help you better understand. For example, “What is most upsetting about this?”, “What is this like for you?”, or “What is the worst thing that could happen in this situation?”.
If you feel like you’d like to offer your partner advice, ask permission first. “Are you interested in receiving advice or problem-solving ideas?”, and then accept what the answer is. Sometimes, all we want is to vent and feel heard. Be okay with that, if that’s what your partner needs and wants in that moment.
Conclude each stress-reducing conversation by asking each other the very powerful question, “What can I do to support you in this?”.
Making the stress reducing conversation a part of your daily lives is a great way to make deposits in your emotional bank account. To keep that emotional bank account in a healthy zone, the research indicates that you need to make five deposits for every negative withdrawal. Try incorporating this into your relationship and notice how your feelings of connection and closeness increase.
For more information on the Gottmans and the Gottman Method, click on this link: https://www.gottman.com/
Sessions can be booked online at www.moanacounselling.com.