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Weekly Marriage Blog

Stress Dumping

By Dr. David Clarke, Ph.D

The Big Idea

How to dump your daily stress on your spouse: the roles of each partner.

The Teaching

One of the greatest things about being married is having a person to dump your daily stress on.  Frankly, no one else wants to hear about the difficulties of your day.  A good friend, a coworker, a neighbor, a family member: none of these persons will, day after day, listen to you talk about how tough your day was.  And, they shouldn't.  That is what a spouse is for. 

It is healthy and normal to dump your stress on your spouse every day.  Some simple rules will help the process go smoothly.  

If you are the spouse who is doing the dumping, be honest and open with your stress.  Don't pretend that all is well when you are upset about something that happened during the day.  This is lying.  You deny your spouse the opportunity to get to know you better.  You deny your spouse the opportunity to love you and comfort you.  And, your stress remains inside and does real damage to you.  

When you dump, use a certain time limit.  Don't vent on and on, with no end in sight.  Even the most loving and understanding spouse will eventually lose patience.  Agree on a reasonable time
limit.  Ask your spouse how long he(or she)thinks he can listen to your stress dump.  It may be 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  If your spouse knows the limit, he can much more effectively listen and provide support. 

If you are the spouse receiving the stress dump, your job is to listen and reflect what your partner is saying and feeling.  Feed back key words and phrases to convey understanding.  You are trying to communicate that you feel your spouse's pain and you are on his team. You are supportive and caring. 

As the receiving spouse:  don't give advice, don't try to fix the problem, don't play devil's advocate, don't interrupt and tell a story about something similar that happened in your life.  Just listen and reflect what your spouse is saying and feeling.  

Some days, only one spouse will stress dump because the other spouse had a good day.  On other days, both spouses will stress dump.  When it is both, do it one at a time. 

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