Stress Management Activities for Your Relationship

If your relationship feels stressful, there is a way to manage the stress with these five stress management strategies!

When discussing stress management techniques, think about it like a football game. A good coach will use offensive and defensive strategies to confront the problem on the team. In a relationship, we must do the same.


Offensive Strategies


Preemptive Strike


When thinking about offensive strategies, think of it like putting a pebble in a stream. You are taking some action to disrupt the flow. You’re feeling the stress in your relationship, and you take action. Taking action could be making a statement, requesting a time to talk, creating time to talk, an activity, it could be anything to disrupt a flow that’s not working for you.

The preemptive strike is for the problems that keep recurring. There’s an on-going problem, you see them, you feel them, you deal with them, you know they are going to come back up. The preemptive strike is a way to stop it before it happens.

What happens a lot of time is you get in the middle of the problem, by trying to talk about the problem or deal with it, but the emotions are high, and it ends up in an argument.

The preemptive strike is talking about it when you sense the problem is coming up but before it comes up, that way tempers are cooler.

It’s as simple as saying, “I suspect this problem is coming up, and I’d like to talk to you about it.” Doing it this way avoids the problem and gets it resolved.




Postmortem talks are talking about the problem after it has happened, but before it goes underground. People have a problem, they keep having a problem, and they want to keep the problem down the road because it’s “calm” now. They don’t want to talk about it because they don’t want it to erupt again. This is not a good strategy because when things get buried they tend to blow.

Postmortem comes after the problem when tempers are calm but before it’s a distant memory.
It’s as simple as saying, “The issue that happened last night didn’t go the way I wanted, can we please try again?”


Defensive Strategies


Defensive strategies are like removing the pebble from the stream, letting the flow continue unimpeded.


Protective Time


Protective time is so vital to your relationship and in stress management. It is when you and your significant other agree and follow through on making time for just yourselves regularly. It’s on the calendar, it’s not to be interrupted or interfered with; everything else goes around the protective time.



Get up 30 minutes earlier to have coffee together.

Meet after lunch but before dinner for tea or a drink on the porch.

Sit down after dinner once the kitchen is cleaned, and the kids are in bed and have dessert together.

The key to protective time is you’re not going to have a deep discussion, have activities that can be interrupted. You don’t want to get into a deep movie, or show, or both have ear pods on where you can’t hear each other. This is about looking at your calendar together, or reading the paper or a magazine together; it’s hanging out together.

If there’s something that’s been going on, now you have the time to talk about it because you have time set aside on the calendar daily.


Bridge Statements


Bridge statements are the pivoting. It’s a way to move from an unexpected display of emotion to protect their relationship. It’s a line that helps you get away from a situation that is going to run away from itself.

It could be something like, “I said I would listen to what you had to say, but I find myself thinking about work, let me take care of that, and I’ll get right back to you.”

“Let’s stop, this discussion is causing me to be angry, and I wasn’t expecting that. I’m going to head to the office, I’ll be back before dinner and we’ll try again.”

By saying these statements you’re doing two things- admitting to a feeling and you’re not punishing the person. Those two factors make it a bridge statement.


Admission Statement


A lot of people tend to be perfectionistic, and that can get in the way of a relationship. Call it a wedge because it wedges right in there and causes distance.

Admissions are our way of empathizing and connecting with our partners. The admission of fault or a shortcoming helps you connect with your partner’s faults or shortcomings. Just as we celebrate happy moments, admissions are a way of empathizing with each other over not so great things.



If your partner says something along the lines of “This pie crust you’re making from scratch calls for lard, do you know where to get that?”

Perfectionistic statement: “Lard is bad for you.”

Admission statement: “You know, I don’t even know what lard is, do you?”

Do you see the difference that an admission statement makes?

Let’s say your partner says, “You know, there are some mornings I just don’t feel like going to church.”

Perfectionistic statement: “We promised to go every Sunday.”

Admission statement: “Yeah, some mornings I feel like being lazy too.”

Such a big difference! You don’t have to correct, right, or hold your partner’s feet to the fire. Doing that causes problems and pushes you away from your partner. Admitting, agreeing, or understanding is a way to get closer.


These are five stress management strategies for you to help manage the stress in your relationship.

Preemptive Strike
Protective time
Bridge statement
Admissions Statement


Let me know how this works out for you, and if you need any help call or text at 757-340-8800.


If you found the information on this page helpful, you may also want to check out the Optimal Relationships Daily’s podcast in which Dr. Dabney’s advice on this topic is featured.
For more relationship topics and helpful information, go to www.drldabney.com.



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More on this topic:

Identifying Stress in Your Relationship

1 Comment

  1. Raina

    Super useful


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