Is Stress Harming Your Relationships?
Jun 04, 2020 03:20PM
By Rhoda Ondov
The response to the coronavirus pandemic means coping with big adjustments, and many people are having a hard time. Losing a job is traumatic even in normal times but this is much more than that. It means financial crisis for many as well as the fear of catching a deadly disease. The lockdowns have forced many to stay at home with a partner or family. Even those able to keep their jobs and work from home may be suffering from too much togetherness as stress and anxiety can derail even good relationships. For a couple with difficulties, being together 24/7 is not ideal, to say the least. Irritability and frustration are easily set off when we are stressed, yet it is possible to learn to get along without hard feelings or arguments.
Truly, communication is the key—the ability to really listen and to be really heard. It is natural to want to blame personal upset or disagreement on the other person, however, this is not going to work out well. When the other person is blamed, or even feels blame, it puts the conversation on a wrong track. When someone feels blamed or attacked, they shift their focus to self-protection, often by explaining why the accusation is wrong or defending whatever was said or done. Alternatively, there is the counter-offense, with “what about” or “but it’s your fault.” For some, the reaction is to simply withdraw from the conversation—leave, dismiss the concern, or just “check out.” Sometimes, we don’t care what started the argument, only who wins!
However, there is another way—avoid this reaction and instead resolve the issue. First, make sure what was said was interpreted correctly. Assumptions and misunderstandings often start arguments. Or restate a complaint as a request, so it is less accusatory. But ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our own feelings. Talk about what feelings were triggered besides anger. Anger is not a standalone emotion—it always comes with some negative feeling that felt hurtful. Go beyond the anger—why does it hurt? There are many negative feelings we all have but don’t wish to admit to, for example, feeling worthless, incompetent, irrelevant, unlovable, stupid—the list goes on. These negative “truths” are ones we all experience yet can’t banish, so don’t even try. Work around it just like any other obstacle by acknowledging it and getting past it.
Learning to communicate peacefully is especially important now when we are in such close quarters with others. The benefits of engaged listening are easy to see as every relationship—friends, family, colleagues—begins to improve, however, it is not always easy to start and takes practice. Consider using the services of a professional counselor for guidance and support as these new skills are being learned and practiced.
Rhoda Ondov, MS, LMFT, CPC, is a Certified Professional Coach, with a background in Marriage and Family Therapy and advanced training in couples counseling. She has been helping couples and families to repair and strengthen their relationships for over 10 years. She is an authorized leader of the Weiner-Davis’ divorce-busting program Keeping Love Alive.
For more information, call 908-642-6256 or visit OndovRelationshipCoaching.com