With Election Day being tomorrow you and/or your partner might be feeling anxious. Some notable tell-tale signs are: feeling on edge, being more quiet, isolating in another room, staying glued to media outlets, not eating or eating more, or not sleeping well. These feelings are normal and we have strategies to help you and your partner work through this time.
What do you do when you notice that your partner is feeling stressed?
Life is full of stressful events, so we’ve put together five steps to steps to strengthen your connection around a stressful event:
Step 1: Stay curious
Step 2: Reflect back what you hear
Step 3: Validate their perspective
Step 4: Share an appreciation
Step 5: Ask how you can help
Be curious: Staying curious is challenging! Judgement likes to come in and hijack your discussion and then it can gridlock you and your partner from being able to finish the conversation. Do your best to keep your judgment at bay. We find it’s helpful to tell ourselves, “I really want to know what’s going on with my partner, stay open, stay curious.”
Try it out: Don’t start out with, “Why?” Why tends to communicate judgment right off the bat and can lead to a defensive response. Instead, say something like, “I can see you are anxious, want to tell me about how you are feeling?”
Reflect: This may feel unnatural, but, believe us, it works and is key to making your discussion a success. Don’t let this step fool you, either, it’s more difficult than you think. Often when one partner “reflects” it isn’t a true reflection. Instead it’s, “Here’s what I think you said…” interpretation and that is definitely not the same thing.
Try it out: It may feel unnatural, but it’s okay to literally repeat back what your partner said. Getting it right is your goal. Also, it’s okay to tell your partner, “I want to get this right. Can you slow down, can you repeat yourself, can you only say a few things at a time so I can understand better?” A successful reflection might go like this, “I heard you say you feel anxious because this is a very important election and you are worried about Election Day, you feel overwhelmed with the news coverage of the Election, and you said you’re worrying about the outcome.
Validate: This step is tricky. Often people believe that if you validate, you are agreeing with your partner and sending the message, “You are right, I am wrong.” This is not the case at all. Validation merely means, “Ahh, I can see why you feel this way.” It’s a strategy to see things from your partner’s point-of-view.
Try it out: Remind yourself it’s not a “you win, I lose” scenario. Imagine that your conversation could sound something like this, “I can understand your worry. There has been a lot of news coverage and it can feel like a lot to take in. It makes sense to me why you’d be feeling anxious during a time like this.”
Share an appreciation: Oftentimes this step can be taken for granted. Relationships need appreciation to thrive.
Try it out: It doesn’t have to be long. In your conversation it could be short and sweet and sound like this, “I appreciate you opening up to me and helping me know what you’re feeling.”
Ask how you can help: Typically this step happens way too early in the conversation…especially if you tend to be a “fixer.” Oftentimes when this step jumps ahead before steps 2, 3, 4 it doesn’t go over well.
Try it out: Before you ask for help, do your best to trust the steps and practice patience so you can be sure your ask for help has the best chance of landing well. After going through steps 2, 3, and 4, then you might say something like, “Is there anything you need from me to help during this time?” For instance, if your partner says, “You can help distract me from all the news, maybe go for a walk together.” Fixers rejoice! Something you CAN do! Finish with, “I can certainly go on a walk with you to get away from the tv or to get off social media for a little while. Grab your jacket! It’s chilly out there.”
We help couples talk through topics where they have differences in opinion. We do so in a way that helps each person feel understood–giving each point-of-view perspective. This allows for a discussion that helps increase understanding and sets aside judgment that may have historically gotten in the way.
If you and your partner find yourselves on opposing sides, feeling stuck in a conversation that isn’t going anywhere, or worse it escalates into something more tense, we can help.
Contact us to schedule a session! We serve clients living in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Texas. We also have educational workshops available for couples living anywhere on the globe!