Chat and Chill – Stress Reducing Conversations for Couples

What is 'Chat and Chill' About?

Chat and chill is all about having a conversation together to blow off steam, reduce external stress and let go of the days worries and frustrations.

It’s important that you both get a turn as ‘the speaker’ to blow off steam, otherwise one person may feel burdened with stress and feel like they don’t have an outlet.

stressed women
Feel familiar?
men stressed
Stressors stacking up?

Chat and chill is about connecting, dissolving external stress, feeling supported and heard by having your best ‘mate’ understand and validate you.

The increased connection helps provide you with a solid foundation for a growing and thriving relationship.

Why is Reducing Stress Important?

The Gottman Institute refer to a study by Neil Jacobson suggesting that effective external stress management was ‘the only factor that mattered’ for couples to retain the progress they had made in their relationship.

With this in mind – think about how you currently handle external stress. Is it healthy? Do you reach boiling point? How is external stress effecting your relationship?

How much better could your
relationship be by simply
taking 10 minutes to
‘chat and chill’?

Tips before you get started

  1. Keep the conversation casual and care free. Be open, be a bit vulnerable and get what’s bothering you off your chest. It’s your chance to vent.
  2. Respect the listener, don’t blame them or get angry with them (attribution). They are there to listen, empathise and support you, but not solve the problems or carry your burden for you.
  3. Dissolve the stress and worry into ‘thin air’ not onto someone else.
  4. Put an end to the conversation and let go of the stress. Perhaps with a ritual like a breathing exercise, washing up your coffee cups, watering the garden, finishing a walk etc. Whatever it is, when that activity is done, the ‘stress’ is gone. It’s processed. It’s done. You don’t need to worry about it anymore!
  5. Keep the conversation about external stressors. Not about each other or any relationship concerns.
  6. Allocate a time frame to have the conversation. Such as 5 Minutes each.
  7. Avoid distractions and commit to the process.

As the Speaker

Talk about what is stressful for you. It could be from your current day, or something that’s been bothering you over the last few days.

Try to keep it about one or two topics, to release a specific source of stress and to not overwhelm the listener.

As you talk about the cause of the stress, reflect on how it makes you feel. Describe your feelings and allow space for your partner to respond and clarify what you’ve said.

As your partner acknowledges your feelings and asks questions, expand on particular stressful areas or strong feelings as needed and shift your attention to what you need.

Don’t worry about problem solving. Focus on what you need to feel better and emotionally move on from the stress. For example, you might need ‘space’ or you might need a cuddle, or you might need a distraction and some soothing.

Explore the positive emotions you’d like to feel that will help dissolve the stress and move on. For example, doing some yoga might be an activity you’ve decided will help you feel warm, strong, flexible, relaxed, energized, centered, at peace.

Thank your listener and appreciate their attention, inquisitive questions and understanding. Remember, they may have had a stressful day too, so show compassion as they listen and seek to understand.

Reverse roles, let the other person speak and embrace your role as the listener.

couple conversation

As the Listener

Take a moment to mentally drop what you’re doing so you can be fully present for your partner.

Actively listen by providing your full attention to what they are saying. Watch their lips, feel what they are saying, look for body language to help you process what they are saying. Grasp and process what they are experiencing right now.

Take a moment to process what this means to them. The story / stress may not seem like a big deal to you – but it could be to them. Because you know your partner well, take a moment to reflect and understand how your partner may be assigning meaning to this stress / event.

Be aware of how you are showing up right now for your partner. Sit close, face them, maintain eye contact, use small verbal cues and gestures to show you are listening and understanding as they speak without interrupting.

Reflect back what you heard and summarise how they’re feeling based on what you’ve heard and understood. If you need to make an assumption ask for clarification.

“It sounds like you are feeling overwhelmed and saddened and perplexed at the same time – does that sound right?”

Empathise by making a statement in alignment with what you are hearing and seeing.

“Whoa – I can see how that new would come as a shock to you – You seem like you are handling it well though, is there anything I can do to help? I’m here for you.”

Avoid telling a similar story of your own – instead, show interest by asking more questions and validating their experience.

Follow up questions can be hard to think of at the time. Here are 5 examples that can open up the dialogue.

5 Intriguing Questions to Show Your Interest

  1. Tell me more about what happened?
  2. What else is contributing to the way you feel?
  3. What’s a positive takeaway you can learn through all of this?…
  4. Is there anyway I can help you with this?
  5. I’m always here for you, is there anything you need right now?
question

Working Together Supporting Each Other

Be on their side. Even if you think your partner holds some responsibility for their stress. Be on their side. Problem solving can come later if need be.

Avoid casting judgement. Your role as listener is primarily to listen.

When providing validation, try to stick to the facts (as you have heard them) and what is known, while acknowledging the presence of the unknown, such as other people’s opinions, reasons etc.

Give it a go and see how you feel! You can only get better with practice. Make it a routine and incorporate the conversation into your daily lives.

Related Resource: Discover the benefits of having a structured conversation each week using the
powerful  ‘Couples Catch-up’.

Further Reading

Wheel of emotions – Familiarise yourself with a range of common emotions.

Emotional Flooding – Know the signs of emotional flooding

Break Free from Negative Sentiment Override – Understand the signs of stress.

Defense Mechanisms – What outdated defenses are holding you stuck?

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