Managing Relationship Strain - MindSpot Clinic

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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 inevitably arise.

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 with them
  • 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 us.

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:
  1. Find a day and time that suits everybody in the house. Ensure your check-in is at the same time each week.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 healthy way?
  4. Allow time for the household to respond before moving onto the next member.

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 area at Beyond Blue.

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 depression.

Additional Resources

If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, we strongly recommend you refer to the following services. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, please call Emergency Services (000).