Source: Photo by In Lieu & In View Photography on Unsplash
In any relationship you are present as both a partner and as an individual. While you live together, you also have a life that is separate from your loved one. We spend time apart from each other and simultaneously want to be a part of each other’s world. We will experience both success and distress independent of each other. A crucial part of building emotional intimacy in a relationship is talking about stress that is coming from outside the relationship. We need to be able to support our partners with the stress that is emanating from the rest of the world. To effectively accomplish this, I recommend engaging in a daily structured conversation.
Creating the opportunity to vent and share your emotions is always valuable, both in the short-term and over time. Immediately, sharing and getting support from your partner allows you to process your emotions and move through painful feelings effectively. Over the long run, the more we turn towards our partner the more connected we become. In this conversation, each of you will take a turn as the speaker and a turn as the listener to ensure that you both get the time you need.
As the speaker, your role is to share what is causing you stress in as much detail as possible. Allow your partner to see what you are going through and get that insight into your world. If you’re the listener, your job is to be supportive and understanding. As the listener, do not try to “solve” the problem. When we jump to problem-solving immediately, it minimizes the speaker’s stress as it implies that the problem can be easily solved. Instead, allow yourself to trust your partner. Your goal is not to fix everything, but to simply support your partner through this stress. A good rule to follow is that unless the speaker asks for advice or help, simply focus on understanding. However, the listener is not a passive participant. Feel free to ask questions to further your understanding. Be curious about what your partner is experiencing and show that you care, encouraging them to share what they are going through.
As the listener, take your partner’s side. In this conversation, the goal is to be a team and support each other, not side with the antagonist. Allow your partner to know that you are there for them, and that it makes sense to be stressed about what they are experiencing. For example, if your partner says their boss is a jerk, do not try to take the boss’ side by asking “did you do something to make your boss upset?” That is going into problem-solving. Instead, put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Think about what it feels like to have a boss who is mean to you, and how that would impact your work and your day. Remember, the goal is understanding and supporting each other. Once the speaker feels understood, you swap roles to ensure that both of you get a chance to understand your partner and share insight into your lives.
This is a time that can be incredibly powerful and healing and I recommend setting aside 20-30 minutes each day for this conversation. All emotions should be welcomed in this space; if you have something exciting to share, you can do that during this time as well. This intentional time together will allow you to be a part of each other’s world and gain insight into your partner’s experience. Find a time that works best for each of you to schedule this conversation and try it out. Your relationship will grow stronger because of it.