When working with couples in therapy, I suggest including in their Daily Rituals of connection the “Stress-Reducing Conversation”.
According to John Gottman’s research, couples who were able to effectively de-stress together felt more connected to and supported by their partners. It’s a wonderful everyday practice that develops and builds couples’ bonds.
Here are the instructions:
Take turns expressing each other about your stress levels, your worries, your irritations at work and elsewhere, and so on. For fifteen minutes, one partner gets to be the complainer and the other gets to be the listener.
As the listener, if you provide a quick fix to your partner’s problem, he or she will likely perceive you as trivialising or ignoring the situation, which will generally backfire… “That’s not such a big deal,”… you’re effectively saying!
When it comes to helping your partner de-stress, the simple rule is that understanding must come before advice. You have to let your partner know that you fully understand and empathise with the dilemma before you suggest a solution.
Often, your partner only wants you to be a good listener or a shoulder to cry on, not to come up with a solution. Advice-giving is more sensitive in women than in males. In other words, when a woman discloses her Significant Other about her problems, she frequently reacts harshly if he immediately offers advice.
Instead, she’d want to hear that he understands and cares. Men are more willing to tolerate immediate problem-solving attempts. However, a man who talks to his wife about his job problems, is more likely to want sympathy than a solution.
Show genuine interest: Don’t let your mind or eyes wander. Stay focused on your partner. Ask questions. Make eye contact.
Take your partner’s side: Don’t side with the opposition – this is likely to have your partner feeling resentful or rejected. When your partner comes to you for emotional support, your task is not to cast judgment or tell him or her what to do.
Validate emotions: Let your partner know that you understand his or her feelings.