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Managing Relationship Strain
Unhealthy levels of stress not only impact our physical and mental
health, but they can also cause strain in our relationships with
our partners, family, friends, and housemates. When we experience
high levels of stress due to challenges such as work-related
difficulties, financial pressure, and coping with illness or
injury, we can become more irritable or short-tempered. In our
relationships, this may lead to unhelpful behaviours such as
criticism and insensitivity.
With social distancing resulting in people spending longer periods
of time at home together, often in close quarters, it may be
helpful to consider some additional strategies to help manage any
relationship strain that may be present.
A Strategy for Now: Increasing Positive Interactions in the House
If you are noticing more tension in the household amongst your
family or housemates, you can balance this out by increasing the
amount of positive interactions with each other. The goal is to
have more positive interactions than negative interactions. Having
a consistent ratio of more positive interactions than negative
ones can help the household cope with conflict which can
Some people find it helpful to set themselves a daily goal, for
example three positive interactions a day. You may even want to
set a household goal. Setting goals or challenges help us stay
focused and accountable.
Here are some examples of positive interactions you can introduce
in your household:
Give a compliment
Make jokes - finding moments to be silly and laugh together
Make a kind gesture - eg. tidying a common area in the house,
preparing dinner if the other person has had a tough day, pick
up a favourite dessert
Show interest in the other person’s hobbies or interests - be
curious about their interests, ask open ended questions
Take time to learn about what is going on for the other person
- eg. ask how their day was, listen to the response, and ask a
follow up question
Validating their perspective - eg. “That sounds frustrating, I
can understand why you would be upset by that”
Express appropriate affection
Check-in with them - eg. “You mentioned going for a job
interview last week, how did that go?”, “I’ve noticed you have
been more quiet than usual this week, are you okay?”
Intentional appreciation - thinking about what you like or
admire about the other person (as opposed to what you dislike
about them) can have a positive influence on how you interact
Apologising when needed
Accepting an apology when given
You may also find our
Dealing with Stress
section helpful for additional information and strategies.
A Longer-Term Strategy: Household Weekly Check-In
COVID-19 has brought with it a lot of change. As individuals, we
all adjust at different rates. Some people can manage well with
big changes, and others can really struggle with this. During such
a challenging time, we may forget to check-in on the people around
Scheduling in a weekly check-in with your household can ensure
that everyone is on the same page by voicing how they feel and
getting their needs met. This process can help address any strain
or tension that may be present in the house, as this provides an
opportunity to listen and respond to each other.
Introducing a household weekly check-in:
Find a day and time that suits everybody in the house. Ensure
your check-in is at the same time each week.
Nominate one person to run the check-in. This can be the same
person each week, or you can take turns running the check-in.
Ensure every member has time to speak without being
interrupted. For each member of the house, the person running
the check-in should ask the following:
How do you feel?
What do you need?
How can we collaborate so that you meet your need in a
Allow time for the household to respond before moving onto the
Looking For More Support?
We recommend you consult with your GP, who can discuss local
support or treatment options with you. They can prepare a Mental
Health Care Plan, which will enable you to access treatment
services with a Psychologist or Psychiatrist through Medicare, or
a referral to local Community Mental Health Services. Your GP can
also provide a physical check-up, if you haven’t had one recently.
Your physical health can affect your emotional wellbeing.
If you don’t have one already, you can find a GP in your local
Another option is online treatment. The MindSpot Clinic offers
free online and telephone delivered Treatment Courses which help
people manage their symptoms stress, anxiety, low mood and