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Emotional Intelligence for Couples: Part 5 Managing Stress

Today is the last in our mini-series on emotional intelligence for couples. 

All of the separate skills we have talked about matter but today’s topic relates to overall well-being in critical ways. Today we talk about how well you are managing stress. We all know that when we are too stressed and not coping well, little else seems to matter. High levels of stress can be very debilitating which obviously has a major impact on key relationships. 

Let’s dive in to today’s three topics. 

1. Flexibility

Change is highly stressful to many people. Change that we did not initiate ourselves in particular. This emotional intelligence skill is about being able to make adjustments as need be in the big 3 - emotions, behaviors and thinking. 

As part of a couple my ability to adjust, or not, has big impacts on both me and my partner. If I cannot cope well with changes that happen then my partner is needing to also cope with how I’m doing in addition to their own reactions. This is a normal part of partnership but the better each person gets at being flexible, the easier for both of you. 

So then, how do we adjust my thinking to be more flexible? 

Learning to ‘reframe’ is a fantastic skill. This is taking time to look at a situation from a different perspective. Sometimes this seems easy later on but it is an amazing skill to have to use in real time. Perhaps a change happens and all I can see is the loss that it means to me. Working on thinking includes an honest evaluation of the loss but also time to look at other possible impacts might be, including some good things. What benefits will this change allow for? (This can take time, for sure!) 

Another way to impact thinking is to put the circumstance back in to perspective. Somedays the smallest thing can feel huge. This is usually a sign of how depleted we are. A good night’s sleep, some exercise, some fun, etc. may really help with perspective. 

Being able to notice the signs of depletion in each other and kindly suggest something that will help fill your partner’s “tank” is helpful. 

How do we adjust how we feel about something? 

It is not by minimizing or ignoring our feelings. That just sends our emotions underground. 

Adjusting feelings starts with acknowledging the current feelings. This can be journalling, talking to a friend, sharing them with your partner, etc. The best way to better emotions in a situation is through the current ones. Looking for possible benefits to a change from a thinking perspective will also benefit emotions. 

Behavior adjustments are so much easier to make when both the thinking and emotions have been addressed first. However, sometimes we just know the right thing to do to be flexible and adaptive and can do it whether we feel like it or not. 

The behavior reaction may be simply a choice to practice self-care that will help us cope with unwanted changes, etc. 

2. Tolerating Stress

This scale measures the belief in oneself to deal with difficult circumstances and changes successfully. 

If I don’t think I can handle stress I will look inappropriately to my partner to carry some of my load for me. In healthy relationships we learn to carry our own appropriate level of stress and gladly receive help for the extra from friends, family and our partner. (Healthy inter-dependence versus co-dependence.) 

This is about resilience. To tolerate stress I need to know what I uniquely need to re-fuel and I need to take ownership of doing those things. “I’m the boss of me” and only I can do those things I need to be able to deal with my current stress level. 

3. Optimism

As overused as it is, this really is the ‘glass half-full’ expression. It is about being able to see possibility. It is having hope for the future and not landing in the pit of despair when tough things happen. 

Optimism requires looking beyond the current difficulty to the bigger picture and seeing good things coming and expecting positive. 

Depending on how you grew up this can be hard. Know this, to make it in to the emotional intelligence skills list it is something you can grow in. 

If this is an area of challenge for you practicing catching yourself making a very negative, deflating statement can be a cue for you to also take time to state other possibilities. Asking your partner to do this with you may be really beneficial to you as a couple. 

Until next time, 

Marilyn Orr, The Luv Life Coach

Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is a relationship coach with Luv Life Coaching, passionate about equipping couples with the tools for real and lasting intimacy.

Be proactive in your relationships so you can stay ahead of the problem. Learn how to listen better, handle conflict in productive ways and how to bring out the best in your partner. Reach Out to Marilyn and grow your Luv Life skills today!

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