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Stress Reducing Conversation

Introduced by the Gottman Institute, the purpose of this process is to help partners manage daily external stress that comes from outside the relationship (like jobs!) Research shows partners that buffer their relationship from external stress are more able to maintain positive changes over time.



Pick a recent or upcoming stressor, preferably not related to the relationship. Men, do not problem solve (the focus of the Drama Triangle), just work on understanding. Women, separate yourself from your partner’s stress, do not internalize their problem as your problem or add complaints or criticism. EVERYONE, JUST LISTEN AND BE UNDERSTANDING. Don’t stonewall, ignore, get defensive, or criticize. Don’t side with the enemy, even if you kind of agree, it’s y’all versus the world.


Understanding must precede advice


  1. Speaker: Discuss your stress with as much detail and depth as possible.
  2. Listener: Avoid problem solving unless your partner asks for help. Do your best to listen and understand their thoughts and feelings. Offer support to your partner using the methods below.


  • Show genuine interest. Maintain eye contact, ask questions
  • Communicate Understanding. What a bummer, I’d be stressed out too.
  • “We” against others, don’t side with the other. “They suck.”
  • Solidarity. This is our problem, and we’ll face it together.
  • Affection. Come here and let me hold you. I’m on your side.
  • Engage in their love languages.


Shared Emotions:

  • Interest. Tell me more about that, ask questions.
  • Excitement. Wow, that’s really awesome, let’s do it.
  • Sadness. That’s lame.
  • Fear. I’d be worried about that too.
  • Irritation & Anger. I can see why you’re frustrated.


  • Listener: Ask, “do you feel understood yet?
    1. “No”. Ask questions from curiosity to increase understanding.
      1. What is most upsetting you about this?
      2. What is it that you don’t like about this situation?
      3. What is the worst thing that could happen in this situation?
      4. What is this like for you?
      5. Is there anything I can do to support you in this?
      6. What do you need?
    2. “Yes”. Ask, “Are you interested in advice or problem solving?”
      1. “No”. Just be with them, let them vent some more.
        1. Venting, when someone talks about something to calm down.
        2. Ranting, when someone talks about something and spins up.
      2. “Yes”. Create a solution with your partner.

Have any thoughts, questions, suggestions, or comments on this article? Broken link? Wondering how to this can be applied, modified, or adapted to your polyamorous, swinging, kink/ BDSM, or otherwise interesting relationship? Feel free to reach out to us here.