Here's some research difficult to ignore: A new Danish study found that conflicts and a stressful relationship with one's partner double a person's risk of death. Researchers studied 9,870 people in their 30s, 40s, and 50s over the course of 11 years. "Conflicts, especially, were associated with higher mortality risk regardless of whom was the source of the conflict," the authors write in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The study addresses relationships with partners, children, friends, and neighbors. "Worries and demands were only associated with mortality risk if they were related to partner or children." Want to get better at reducing stress in your relationship (thereby helping prevent conflicts)? Of course you do, if for no other reason than that it could save your life. Read on.
It sounds simple, but listening is truly one of the most important things you can do to keep your relationship going. “We want our partner to understand and when we are listened to, we feel cared for,” says Judy Ford, a licensed clinical social worker and author of Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other , told PsychCentral. Be careful with the balance of your conversations and make sure you are really hearing what your partner is saying.
A lot of peoples' natural instinct is to try and solve a problem instead of listening to (see above!) and empathizing with the person confiding in them. But your partner is confiding in you because they're looking for stress-relief, not necessarily a direct way to solve the problem. "Comfort each other first, problem-solve second," says Ford. Comforting someone doesn't always involve saying a lot: Sometimes it's enough to let them know you're there for them, and you understand what they're going through.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries
Being co-dependent may feel good in the short term, but it does nothing but stress you out in the long term — as well as decrease your confidence. And low-self esteem is linked to, you guessed it, more stress (plus, women with high self-esteem have better sex). So develop your own hobbies and interests outside of the relationship, and you'll both be more relaxed in the long run.
4. Stop Making Assumptions
Stress is often all about perception. "Often, couples make up stories about each other and why they do the things they do," relationships coach Kim Olver writes at YourTango. "If these stories are kind to the other person and supportive of the relationship, then there is minimal stress. If, however, the stories assign sinister motives to the other person and say negative things about the relationship, then stress increases." Also, according to PsychCentral, when we're stressed, we're more likely to see our relationship in a negative light — a vicious cycle.
5. Don't Try to Change Each Other
This one never ends well. "When we aren't successful [in changing the other person], our stress level rises and even on those occasions when our efforts do work, stress levels also rise because we are damaging our relationship," writes Olver.