Dos and Don’ts for Managing Relationship Stress 

Ready to wrap up 2020 and start fresh? We get it. This year has had no shortage of challenges. And with so much time spent at home due to COVID-19, you may get a little irritated with your partner or household members.   

Whether you’re bickering about politics, homeschooling, holidays or dirty dishes, these situations present opportunities to work on your relationship skills. Keep your relationship healthy and conversations constructive by following these tips in any argument:  

Do: 

  • Know why you are arguing before you start.
  • Devote some time to resolving the problem.
  • Sit down and make eye contact.
  • Speak personally about what you feel.
  • Acknowledge when the other person makes a valid point.
  • Agree to differ if you cannot agree.
  • Stick to the matter at hand.
  • Cease arguing and separate if there is any likelihood of violence.

Try not to: 

  • Behave aggressively or disrespectfully. 
  • Argue deliberately to hurt the other person’s feelings. 
  • Generalize. 
  • Bring up old, unresolved disputes. 
  • Walk away without deciding when the discussion will be resumed (unless violence threatens). 
  • Bring other peoples’ opinions in. 
  • Argue about something for more than an hour. 
  • Argue late at night or after drinking. 

“Talking things out is healthy for relationships, but the words you use in conversation can make a big difference,” said Kristen Smith, care manager at New Directions, a company that provides behavioral health services for many Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members. “Try using ‘I’ statements first, rather than ‘you’ statements. For example, ‘I do not like picking up laundry from the floor’ instead of ‘You are always leaving a mess with your clothing.’ This way, the other person will feel less defensive and be more willing to hear what you have to say.”  

For complex relationship issues, counseling or coaching can be a great option to allow each person to talk through their feelings and emotions with a neutral third party. Talk to your doctor or call the behavioral health number on the back of your health insurance card to speak with a mental health professional.  

You may also want to check out Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s new mental health website at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth. Need more help handling your emotional health this holiday season? Check out this holiday toolkit New Directions has put together as a resource.  

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Photo credit: ljubaphoto

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