Filed under: Couples
When stress threatens to overload you, be careful it doesn’t spill over into your relationships. Stress can make you less patient with your loved ones, less able to solve problems well, and more disagreeable.
When you’re under a lot of stress, you’re also more likely to feel negative about your relationships. This generally leads to more fighting, which can be especially tough for military families if one of you deploys or leaves for training before you’re able to rebalance your relationship and de-stress. While you’re apart, negative feelings can fester and further damage your relationship.
But just knowing about how stress can impact your relationships is the first step. Next time you feel stressed out, don’t let it fester. Instead, do something about it. To ease your stress, you can try:
- Deep breathing or another mind-body skill that can switch you from your body’s stress response to its relaxation response.
- Exercise, which can make you feel better and lower your stress.
- Something just for fun, which can take your mind off your stress.
- Connecting with a loved one. Feeling loved and supported can also reduce stress.
Finally, if you’re apart from your loved one, set aside time regularly to connect to him or her, regardless of the last fight you had. Try to give each other benefit of the doubt and move past the argument. You can always finish discussing it when he or she returns.
To have a healthy, long-term romantic relationship, you might find that you need to cool it with old patterns. Use these ICED tips to make sure your relationship holds up over time.
Identity: It’s easy to lose yourself in relationships. You may feel subtle (or not-so-subtle) pressure to be more like the other person and enjoy the same activities or share the same goals. But if you give in to these pressures, you can lose track of your own identity. While it’s good to adapt some over time, you also want to keep a clear sense of your own identity. Solid relationships consist of two people with solid identities.
Calm: It can feel difficult to remain calm when fear of losing your partner pops up. While its normal to experience some concern, the key to a relationship without harmful pressure is learning to calm yourself. If you look to your partner instead to make you feel better, perhaps acting a bit “clingy,” your efforts could backfire. The pressure that your partner feels can lead him or her to feel withdrawn rather than closer. If your partner’s presence feels like a “bonus” instead of a “need,” you’re on the right track.
Engage: When you see your partner upset, slow down and engage with him or her in a way that empowers both of you. Engage with empathy and boundaries. For example, “I know you feel anxious about me going out with the boys. You make me feel a bit guilty, and I think I need to deal with that guilt, but you should cope with your feelings too. It’s important for me to keep these other friendships.”
Deal: Whether you or your partner (or both) feel uncomfortable, it’s best to cope with how you feel rather than looking for quick fixes. Dealing with discomfort is key to growing individually and together. And it’s crucial to hang on to your own identity, learn how to self-calm, and engage with your partner in a way that makes sense.
Relationships are important to total fitness—especially intimate relationships. Think back to the beginning of your relationship—was it filled with lots of passion and intensity? Does it still have those aspects?
There’s been a lot written about the different types of romantic love, and how they change over time. One theory describes two main types of love: passionate and companionate. Passionate love involves an intense feeling of longing for one another. Companionate love happens when you feel affection, tenderness, intimacy, and commitment to your partner. Couples with companionate love often also feel a deep mutual friendship, an ease of companionship and a sharing of common interests. Companionate love does not have to include being attracted to each other or sexual desire.
It’s generally thought that couples begin in passionate love and later morph into companionate love. However, research suggests that romantic love that has intensity, interest, and passion can grow and flourish in relationships over the long run. As with diet and physical fitness, moderation is key. Focus (but don’t fixate) on your partner and foster affection, intimacy (both physical and emotional), and a deep bond. It is possible to be with your partner for a long time—and still experience passion and emotional intimacy with him or her! So set the bar high and strive for it. It is not a myth!
Sex experts say that "good sex"—a key ingredient in most intimate relationships—adds only about 15–20% to an already good relationship. On the other hand, "bad sex" (such as one or both partners not being fulfilled) can take away 75% from relationship happiness. That is, when sex is going well, it helps to improve your relationship a little bit, but when it isn't, it can be destructive to your relationship and overall quality of life. Keep in mind there’s no common definition of “good” or “bad” sex. These definitions rely on each person’s perception of sex and a fulfilling sexual relationship, plus how well both partners’ perceptions match.
Not only can sex affect satisfaction in relationships, it can also improve your health! Warm affection, such as hugging and kissing, can improve happiness and well-being, as well as reduce stress. Sex is also associated with greater overall health and satisfaction. As we pointed out in a previous article, sex releases a hormone that helps you feel closer to the other person and makes you feel good.
Being sexually active, having a good-quality sex life, and a healthy interest in sex are related to improved health through middle age and beyond. In fact, research has found that regular sexual activity among older individuals is more normal than previously thought. However, it isn’t clear whether healthier people have more-active sex lives or whether active sex lives improve health. At this point, all we know is that they are positively related to each other.
There are three core relationship skills that can help strengthen all relationships. HPRC has created downloadable cards about each of them.
First, brush up on your communication skills with your loved ones using our card on effective communication.
Second, you should be able to make decisions and solve problems well. Use the step-by-step process on our card on making decisions to guide you from problems to solutions.
Finally, avoid doing four specific behaviors that can tank even the best of relationships. Check out “How not to destroy yours” and apply the tips today.
We all know that falling in love with your significant other is a key feature of a romantic relationship—but did you know liking goes hand in hand with loving? The results of numerous studies found that those who both love and like their significant other are more likely to be happier and have more stable long-term relationships. Without both, couples are more likely to be dissatisfied or dissolve the relationship. Couples who both like and love each other are also more likely to assure each other of their feelings, be open with each other, and share tasks together—all behaviors that maintain happy relationships. Liking as well as loving your partner is the most fundamental characteristic of a good relationship.
For more information on how to enhance your relationship, check out HPRC’s Family and Relationships domain.
Reward your loved one this Valentine’s Day. In studies that looked at relationship satisfaction, it’s clear that we’re happiest when we feel rewarded. Think back to when you were a kid and when you did something good – did you get a reward? Studies with more than 12,000 people revealed something you probably already know: As adults, we feel rewarded when we have positive interactions with our significant others and when we hear from them that they value being in a relationship with us. So this year, in addition to the usual flowers or chocolates or whatever you do for each other, try two simple acts: Do or say something loving to your partner, and in your own words tell them you’re happy to be in a relationship with them.
For more information on enhancing your relationship check out HPRC’s Family & Relationships domain.
Do you show your loved one appreciation? Gratitude is an essential element in happy relationships. Couples who feel appreciated by their significant others in turn are more appreciative back to the other person. Also, when shown appreciation, people tend to be more responsive to their significant other’s needs. In short, gratitude is contagious! Try it. When you next talk to your significant other, find something to be appreciative about and see if it has any positive ripple effects. This can also help maintain intimacy when you are apart from your loved one due to deployment or TDY.
Love may be the most important part of choosing a partner—but do you also think about friendship? Couples who both love AND cultivate a friendship with each other have happier and more stable relationships over the long run—and people in happier relationships tend to be healthier. That makes friendship with your significant other one more factor in a Warfighter’s total fitness package.
If you’re wondering how to cultivate a friendship with your partner, try starting up a conversation around topics like these that will bring you closer:
- What is it about yourself that you’re most proud of?
- What would you like to see happen for us in the next five years?
- Who are your best friends at this point in your life?
- What attracted you to me when we first met?
In other words, you can build a friendship together by talking about your experiences, wants, and dreams. For more tips on building or maintaining a strong relationship, check out HPRC's Answer on how to optimize your relationships.
The Army has changed the name of its Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program—its new name is Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness – CSF2. The resilience-enhancement program now includes spouses and allows them to be trained and serve as Master Resilience Trainers (MRTs). In CSF2, spouses can attend a 10-day, 80-hour course—the same program as for soldiers—and then can go on to help train other spouses in resilience and psychological health.