Have you ever noticed a certain pattern exists when talking to your partner? Imagine you have come home after a long and emotionally exhausting day at work. What do you want most to help you feel better? Does your partner help, or does he get in the way?
Let’s look at two patterns: When feeling stressed or anxious, the thing you want most from your partner is his availability to hear you vent. On those days, does your partner retreat? Or, when faced with stressful days, the thing you want most is solitude. Does your partner want you to talk about your day with him?
These kind of “pursuer/ distancer” patterns are highly common in most relationships; where, in times of emotional stress, one partner seeks security from the other (pursues), and the other retreats (distances) from said partner. Sometimes, the more one partner pursues, the more the other retreats. Knowing which of the two you are will help alleviate unnecessary negative feelings from arising in your relationship.
First, it is important to understand that everyone handles stress differently. Focus on how you handle stress. Then take a look at how your partner handles stress. Are they similar? If so, then you are one step ahead of most other couples in the world. Unfortunately, for the rest of us, these opposing patterns often lead to misunderstandings, resentment, ill-feelings, and separation. Knowing how you and your partner flow through times of stress and relaxation is key to maintaining balance in your relationship.
Second, it is important to communicate your anxieties to your partner. Again, we have not developed the capacity to read minds, and some new couples are not able to figure out when one partner has had a bad day, nor how to help that partner recuperate from it. Be calm and honest when talking to your partner about what you need, and how you are feeling. For those of us who are distancers - “I’ve had a rough day today, and I need some time alone to calm down” may work in helping your partner understand what you need most from him. For pursuers - “I’ve had a rough day today, and I need to talk to someone about it” may work in getting your partner more involved in helping you feel better.
If your partner has had a rough day, how does it affect you? I-statements, such as “I feel (insert feeling here) when you do (insert behavior here)” are the best form of effectively communicating your needs. For example, “I feel anxious when you come home stressed from work” is a clear message to your partner that his style of coping with a stressful day at work is making you stressed out. Coming up with a solution on how to alleviate that stress will then be more of a team effort, hopefully reducing anxieties in the long run.
Third, and most important, one must exercise patience when trying new things. Change does not happen overnight. Because change is a process, there is a period of adjustment. But change cannot happen on its own. Both partners must want change for the process to be complete. In an effort to reach this, both partners must be aware of the end-goal. Only through understanding, communication, and patience, will the goal be reached.
Kanchan Sakhrani, M.S.Ed is a recent graduate from the University of Miami, with a Master’s of Science in Education, specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy. She currently resides in Miami, where she is working as a Data Specialist with the Center for Family Studies at the University of Miami/Miller School of Medicine.