Disregarding a Spouse's Stress

Colleen Sheehy Orme

Couple discussing problemsPhoto by SHVETS production:

Couples tend to bicker over the same things again and again. We're different people, it's not uncommon to have varying opinions. But is it fair to talk someone out of their feelings? Because you disagree with it.

The PsychCentral article, How to Overcome Relationship Stress, Together discusses how to minimize this tournament of feelings.

"An argument can sometimes feel like a competition where the goal is to score the most points over your opponent. While it may feel good to win the argument, it doesn’t do anything to de-stress your partner or the situation."
"If they’re expressing their anxiety to you — even if it’s not in a calm or productive way — try to hear them out. Even if you don’t agree with them, stopping to take the time to actually hear what they’re saying will help validate their point of view."
“Listen to each other,” says Opoku. “If we listen to the other person and give them an opportunity to explain their point of view, chances are they’ll be more open to hearing us out. When someone is making a statement that we disagree with, our common response is to start thinking of a rebuttal while the person is talking.”

While I was married we had many circular arguments. They generally occurred around my feelings. I would attempt to tell my husband something stressed me and he would tell me all the reasons it shouldn't.

For instance, I hated being late. Not unlike many stress triggers it was rooted in my childhood. My mother was habitually late. Not a little, a lot. Not the typical ten to fifteen minutes, she ran about an hour late. In her defense, she was a single mom to five children. But when you're the last child picked up at birthday parties and school it tends to influence you.

I would explain this to my husband but he didn't listen. He continued to tell me all the reasons I was overreacting or being ridiculous. He would remind me when we got to the wedding just before the bride that we had made it on time. It was almost like a game. The more I told him it was one of the few things that stressed me the more he would push the time limits.

Conversely, I acknowledged his stress. Because I was aware that again, most of these things take root in our upbringing. In our twenties, he made it clear savings would be a priority. I was young, I thought we had all the time in the world. But I knew his father losing his job while he was in college had stuck with him. Even though it was temporary and his dad was successful. I did make my opinions clear but I acquiesced and became a voracious saver myself.

It serves as an example, we can have positive results from acknowledging the stress of a spouse.

The article points out one technique that may improve a spouse's ability to listen.

“I would recommend couples walk around outside and discuss their issues,” says Nicholas Hardy, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist out of Houston, Texas. “In addition to being outside and enjoying the weather (if it is nice), you are not forced to look directly at each other.”
“It takes the pressure off of the conversation, which sometimes allows people to be more open,” Hardy adds."
"Staying in one place during an argument can make you feel like you aren’t moving toward an endpoint. Try to put the heat of the argument on pause, take a break, and revisit things after you’ve cleared your head."

Stress is derived from many factors in our lives. It could be family, finances, work, health, or more. Knowing that one person hears and acknowledges that anxiety can lessen it.

Because stress is often caused by things that feel seemingly out of our control.

A boss at work that is unreasonable. A family situation all parties can't seem to resolve. Too many things on our plate. An unexpected expense.

Making it critical for a spouse to acknowledge the feelings of their partner. When we express stress, we are sharing our anxieties. Something that should never be dismissed. We are communicating our vulnerabilities.

The operable word is 'communicate.'

We shouldn't take out our stress on our partners, they shouldn't absorb our angst.

It can only have a positive result, as per the article:

"If you can help your partner reduce the external stressors in their life, it might help diffuse similar arguments in the future and show your partner that you’re being supportive and sympathetic."

Comments / 4

Published by

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a National Relationship Columnist, freelance journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, relationships, and self-restoration. She has spent more than a decade in research and counseling on the topics of divorce, relationships, and Narcissistic personality disorder.

Reston, VA

More from Colleen Sheehy Orme

Comments / 0