Provision #626: Stress Proof Your Love

Laser Provision

Last week I wrote about how to stress proof our relationships in the workplace; this week, I focus on the home. What does your home look like? How would you describe the atmosphere? What is the quality of the relationship between partners, spouses, and generations? If that relationship is a bit stressed right now, then this Provision may serve as a road map to get back on track. It doesn’t help to assign blame and erect fences, unless you want the relationship to end sooner rather than later. It does help to give each other the benefit of the doubt, to talk openly, and to help each other out as much as possible. That’s what it takes to stress proof your love.

LifeTrek Provision

Consider the following statistics, available through the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence:

  • Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
  • Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women and 3% experienced by men in 2001.
  • In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men in intimate, heterosexual relationships were killed by their partner.
  • In recent years, intimate partners killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
  • 11% of lesbians reported violence by their female partner and 15% of gay men who had lived with a male partner reported being victimized by a male partner.
  • Between 1998 and 2002, of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses.
  • It is estimated that anywhere between 3.3 million and 10 million children witness domestic violence annually.
  • 18-24 year-olds comprised only 11.7% of the population in 1998 and 2002, but were the majority of victims of violence committed by a boyfriend or girlfriend (42%).
  • In 1996, nearly 450,000 adults aged 60 and over were abused and/or neglected in domestic settings.
  • 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the United States. The average duration of stalking is 1.8 years. If stalking involves intimate partners, the average duration of stalking increases to 2.2 years.

That’s only a sampling of the sad statistics available at the ABA website. Unfortunately, our most intimate relationships are neither immune to nor antidotes for our stressful lifestyles. They suffer right along with everything else. If we want to stress-proof our lives, then we may want to start at home. And that’s the focus of today’s Provision: those special, intimate, family relationships that count for so much in life yet have so much potential to distract and derail even the rich and famous.

Who has not heard of the escapades of powerful people brought low by some love interest? Such is the stuff of story, myth, and legend. “The heart has reasons that reason does not know,” to quote Blaise Pascal. Love, a universal human need, can make life easier and more wonderful when the need is being fully met. Yet nothing makes life harder and more miserable when our attempts to meet this need result in sustained conflict or violence. That’s when it’s time to stress-proof the dynamics of our relationships.

You may remember my discussion of how to do that from four years back, when I published the remarks I made at my son’s and daughter-in-law’s wedding in a Provision on Relationship Wisdom. I offered them eight suggestions that grew out of my own rich experience of meeting my needs for love through my 35-year-long relationship to the most wonderful woman in the world: Megan Tschannen-Moran. Although my suggestions were not framed at the time in terms of stress-proofing, they have a lot to offer in that regard. Here’s a quick recap:

1. Court Each Other Daily. What works during the courtship phase of a relationship works even better during the maintenance phase of a relationship. Never stop doing nice things for each others. A long-term commitment or marriage license is no excuse to use and abuse each other; it’s rather an opportunity to do special things for each other, on a daily basis. When we open ourselves up to the possibility, the things we do bring each other even more pleasure as the years go by, because we know exactly what each other likes. Be sure to make it so.

2. Put Service Above Self. The best relationships have interests outside themselves. When Megan and I got married, we had a strong sense of being called together because we thought our marriage would enable us to do more good in the world than either of us could alone. We also understood that we had to take that same approach with each other if we had any hope of making our youthful marriage endure. And it has worked out just that way. The more time and attention we give to helping others, the more willing and able we become to help each other.

3. Share Each Other’s Interests. For the past year, Megan and I have been writing a book together on how to improve coaching in schools. At times, when we have mentioned that fact to others, they have responded with concern. “Have you ever written together before? That can be hard on a relationship!” Our experience has been just the opposite. Since the beginning of our relationship we have shared each other’s interest and have helped each other out on in both our personal and professional lives. That definitely makes things less stressful.

4. Never Be Jealous. Remember all those reports of domestic violence? At their core, they all come down to confusion over needs and strategies. We get attached to a strategy, a specific way of meeting our needs, and when that way doesn’t work out our attachment wreaks havoc with our emotions and our relationships. As Megan and I were told more than 30 years ago by a dear couple who had themselves been married for more than 60 years, “Never be jealous of each other.” Celebrate each other’s freedom. Seek first to meet each other’s needs.

5. Fight Fair. As much as we understand about needs and strategies, there are still times when Megan and I have a conflict over when to do what. That’s an inevitable part of life. The goal is not to eliminate conflict, the goal is to resolve conflicts through honest and empathic communication. What do I need and want? What does my partner need and want? How can we put those two things together in mutually supportive ways? When conflicts are approached with calm resolve and appreciative intentions, they strengthen rather than destroy relationships.

6. Pitch In. We also strengthen our relationships when we help each other out. It’s that simple. Don’t sit there and do nothing while the other person carries more than his or her fair share of the load. Instead, step up to the plate. Do your part. What goes around comes around; the more you give the more you receive. That’s the way relationships are supposed to work. Whatever challenges you may face, in any arena, the task will be easier if you work on it together.

7. Keep Laughing. No relationship can long endure a lack of joy and laughter. If it isn’t fun, it won’t last. I work on that in coaching, since people cannot force themselves to practice new behaviors forever. Sooner or later, they have to become enjoyable if they’re going to endure. So whatever makes you laugh and brings you pleasure, do those things early and often. Then find new things. Experiment. Keep life interesting and spontaneous. Laugh together, not at each other but with each other, to keep from becoming cranks.

8. Trust Life to Work Out. However you wrap your brain around this last dimension, whether you attribute providence to intelligent design or evolutionary development, there’s no way to keep a relationship going on pins and needles. The more anxiety we feel about life the more antagonism we feel at home. That’s why domestic crime statistics go up as the economy goes down. Losing financial stability increases relational hostility. So trust becomes a factor in stress-proofing our lives. Without hope that things will work out, one way or another, our love is at risk. Trust, hope, and love are always interconnected, and the greatest of these is love.

Last week I gave you three handles for stress-proofing your relationships at work. Watch your attributions: don’t play the blame game. Set your standards: know what’s important to you and why. Communicate your boundaries: Share your standards and expectations with others, before things start to go awry. I hope you can see those handles coming through in my relationship wisdom. If attributions, standards, and boundaries are important in the workplace, they are even more important at home.

The blame game is a killer when it comes to love and commitment. We want to know that the ones we love give us the benefit of the doubt and have our back. We also want to know that they share our values and respect our space. The best way to get those things is to give those things. The more we make such healthy dynamics our way of being in the world, and our way of being with the ones we love, the more freedom from stress we will enjoy.

Coaching Inquiries: On a scale of 0-10, how much stress would you say is in your primary love relationships? What would it take to bring that number down? How many of the above suggestions describe your way of being in the world? Which ones would you like to adopt and do more fully? Who could assist you to make it so?
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..

I enjoy your Provisions. Thanks for teaching me about my reptilian, limbic, and rational brains. Makes a lot of sense!

I noticed on your Twitter feed that you were switching over to the Palm Pre. Keep us posted on how you like it. I’m considering. (Ed. Note: So far so good. Still working on extending battery life and adding apps. It is cool and compact.)

Do you know which service or program can be replaced with AvantGo, since you mentioned that AvantGo will be out of business very soon because of devices getting more and more popular having mobile access to the web? (Ed. Note: AvantGo is now officially closed. I do not know of another service like it. If you have a web-enabled mobile device, however, you can access our mobile content by going to

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School
Immediate Past President, International Association of
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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