Step into mate’s shoes to lower tension

Do you feel extreme tension in your love relationship? Are things going from bad to worse?

Have you ever noticed that trying to “share feelings” and talking about problems only intensifies the arguing?

All of us in love have experienced that golden honeymoon period. But, when that’s over, life happens.

We begin to ask, “Where was that perfect human I fell in love with?”

The truth is that life is like a stage play. When stress materializes, the characters start to act differently.

The person you once idolized can become someone you’re not too fond of.

Money problems, child issues and chore wars can bring out the beast, versus the best, in most of us.

If you want to get things back on track, and you don’t want a separation or divorce, try to calm down and think through your situation.

Your foremost goal in any kind of relationship issue is to ease some of the tension. Why? Easing tension helps the relationship heal.

“My wife and I went through so much trauma last year, we had a major fight almost every day,” says a man we’ll call Richard.

“I’d wake up in the morning worried she was already gone!”

In order to cool some of the tension with a partner, try these tips:

n Reverse your perspective. In your own imagination, look back at yourself. Think from your partner’s viewpoint for a couple of days. What is that person worried about? How does that person see you?

n Give empathy to your mate. For instance, if you know your mate is aggravated over housework say, “I know the stress is getting you down.”

n Ask what you can do. For instance, you might say, “Tell me how I can take some strain off you.”

Even if nothing can change, the fact you’re showing concern for your mate’s feelings can help that person change toward you.

It’s impossible for another person to trust you if you aren’t sensitive to his or her needs. This doesn’t mean you can meet all of those needs. But, you can state that person’s stress issues and give voice to some of his or her pain.

“My husband and I almost got into a brawl during his cancer treatments,” says a woman we’ll call Candy. “My husband was not coping well.”

Candy says she tried to look at things from her husband’s viewpoint.

“I could see that he must be frightened out of his mind,” says Candy. “Cancer is a battle — not a dance through a daisy field.”

When Candy started telling her husband he must feel stressed out and frightened, he opened up.

“He blurted out that he felt I hated him,” Candy says. “He actually thought I was looking at him as though he was a burden — damaged goods!”

Candy says she told her husband that she hated his bad temper. “But,” says Candy, “I told him I could never hate him as a person. That would never happen!”

While all tension between intimate partners can’t be fixed by empathizing, tension can often veer off down a different path. Tension going back and forth gets worse and worse.

By telling your mate kindly, “I worry that your job is too demanding,” or “I know it hurt when you lost that promotion,” your mate will feel you perceive him as a real person — not a prince or princess.

Two people in love should always feel like each other’s ally. When you each “choose sides,” the tension always heats up.

Judi Hopson and Emma Hopson are authors of a stress management book for paramedics, firefighters and police, “Burnout To Balance: EMS Stress.” Ted Hagen is a family psychologist. Write to them in care of McClatchy-Tribune News Service, 700 12th St. N.W, Suite 1000, Washington DC 20005 or online at