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5 Tips to Decrease Work Stress with Your Spouse

Steven Losardo, MFT 

Returning to the office after working from home or being unemployed during the pandemic can be an adjustment. The change may be adding stress and negatively impacting your relationships, but there are paths to relief. Together with your spouse, you can help each other relieve stress by using various exercises. 

Tip 1: The Gottman Stress Reduction Conversation

One of the best ways to reduce stress with your spouse is the Gottman Stress Reduction Conversation, a technique developed by Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the cofounders of the Gottman Institute. The Gottman approach (2017) is research-based, and it strengthens relationships and relieves stress. This method begins with a conversation: in this exercise with your spouse, you will be using “active listening,” which requires listening to them attentively while conveying empathy (Gottman, 2017). Through this practice, you will understand what they are going through, and they will feel valued. 

Gottman (2017) notes during the conversation, you should:

Take turns talking; let your spouse vent for a designated amount of time.

Show them that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Do not give unsolicited advice.

Focus on them completely; show them you understand what they are saying.

Be on their side.

Validate their emotions, which can be as simple as saying: “It makes sense that you are feeling irritated by that situation” (Gottman, 2017).

Note: This is a great exercise to do together after a long, stressful workday. 

Tip 2: Couples mindfulness relaxation

Another way to relieve stress with your spouse is to practice mindfulness together (Mindful, 2021). Mindfulness nourishes both the body and the mind. Practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment, fostering non-judgmental awareness, and paying close attention to your senses (Mindful, 2021). 

One research-based mindfulness approach for couples is called Mindfulness-Based Relationship Enhancement (MBRE) (Cuncic, 2020). MBRE can help couples defuse conflict, increase empathy, and prevent arguments. MBRE has four main components: 1) Mindfulness, 2) Acceptance, 3) Relaxation, and 4) Self-broadening (Cuncic, 2020). 

The mindfulness component involves being present, aware, and non-judgmental. Acceptance means learning to accept situations, emotions, and experiences that you and your spouse go through together. Relaxation is geared towards managing stress and remaining calm during tense moments. Self-broadening requires you to develop a greater sense of trust and to be less self-focused. 

Tip 3: Scheduling

Cuncic (2020) notes, although schedules can cause stress for individuals who prefer an unstructured day, making schedules with your spouse can help relieve work-related tension. Working long hours can make you feel distant from your spouse. It can be an adjustment after spending a lot of time together at home during the pandemic. Create a schedule with your spouse to make sure you have quality time together, whether on the weekends, a date night, or a sit-down meal together at home (Cuncic, 2020). 

Tip 4: Own being the only ones who can define your relationship

While work can be a rewarding part of life, it’s important to try to set boundaries with both your spouse and your supervisors (Mindful, 2021). Spending significantly too little or too much energy on your relationship can lead to conflict, as well as feeling unsatisfied and burnt out (Gottman, 2017; Sweatt-Eldredge, 2017). You must not let work define your relationships. The balance that works best for you and your spouse is unique to you as a couple. 

Tip 5: Reflect on past resilience

When dealing with work-related stress as a couple, try thinking back on times when you got through difficult situations together (Carson, et. al 2006). It may have been hard, but you two survived and grew stronger as a result. The current difficulties may seem overwhelming, but if you recall your resilience over time, it will improve your ability to deal with the present situation (Mindful, 2021). 

The bottom line 

Work pressures can strain your relationship, but you can help each other by facing them together. Take time to listen to each other, and respect each other’s space when necessary. If you follow the five tips above you are on your way to stress relief. 

References

Carson J, Carson K, Gil K, Baucom D. (2006). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement

(MBRE) in couples. Mindfulness-Based Treatment Approaches: Clinician’s Guide to

Evidence Base and Applications. Elsevier Academic Press; 2006:309-331.

doi:10.1016/B978-012088519-0/50015-0.

Cuncic, A., (2020). Understanding mindfulness-based relationship enhancement.

Gottman, J.  (2017). Level 1 Clinical training manual: Gottman method couple

therapy. Seattle, WA: The Gottman Institute Inc.

Mindful (2021). Getting started with mindfulness: You have questions about mindfulness and

meditation. Retrieved from https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting

started/ on June 3, 2021.

Sweatt-Eldredge, C. (2017). This Conversation Can Protect Your Relationship From Stress.

Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-connected

life/201705/conversation-can-protect-your-relationship-stress on June 3, 2021.

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