When was the last time you came home and complained to your partner that your relationship needs more pressure? I’d bet the answer is “Never” and for good reason. I’ve studied the topic for 25 years and can report to you these two facts. First pressure adversely impacts all relationships. Second couples that have learned to handle pressure are far better off than their counterparts who can’t.
While we all feel under pressure at work to achieve successful results, relationship pressure occurs when either or both partners feel forced to act/think/feel/ in a particular way to please the other or experience negative consequences. For example, one partner might pressure the other to start a family before the he or she feels ready. When we are forced to act a particular way to gain acceptance, resentment, anger, and insecurity in the pressured partner becomes aroused, and when he or she succumbs to the pressure put upon them, the decision made is usually regretted.
Regardless of the source of our pressure feelings, the common denominator is relationship pressure creates havoc. That’s not surprising when you consider pressure sabotages three successful relationship essentials:
Communication. Anger often colors the communications; critical and blaming comments, interrupting each other, refusal to compromise, are typical communication patterns that occur when one or both partners feel pressured. None of them help a relationship thrive and all of them prompt couples to make decisions they later regret.
How You Treat Each Other. Relationship pressure creates anxiety and tension between partners. Because most couples perceive issues that create pressure as threatening, they cope by withdrawing and avoiding the other and in the process decrease demonstrations of affection, support, and statements of reassurance. Because each blames the other for their feelings of pressure, resentment and anger builds.
Intimacy. If there is one room couples need to lock out pressure, it’s the bedroom. Pressure affects a couple’s sex life in two ways. First, daily feelings of pressure —whether it istems from work or the relationship — decrease romantic feelings and sexual desire. If this is true for only one partner, the other is apt to become angry and often ends up demanding the other for more sexual activity that intensifies relationship pressure. When its true for both partners, the abrupt decrease in sexual desire makes it obvious to both partners that there is a “problem,” but because discussion of the topic is perceived as threatening and anxiety arousing, the conversation is avoided. In essence, pressure creates sexual distance.
What about couples who feel no relationship pressure and desire sexual intimacy? Pressure gets them too in the form “spectating.” The person, usually males, becomes self -conscious and worried about how he is “performing.” The excessive worry about his sexual performance and whether he is pleasing his partner results in blocking his natural sexual response — he fails to perform. In turn, he feels more pressure to perform the next time he is “at bat.” Spectating or becoming overly self-conscious is a frequent reason people “choke” when performing a well-rehearsed presentation or a behavior they’ve performed thousands of times, like a golf swing. “He’s thinking too much,” is how the sports announcer says it.
While you nor your partner can escape feelings of pressure at work or at home, you and your partner can make your relationship more pressure-less by using the following pressure solutions, all geared to helping you reduce the distressful feelings of pressure, keep you and your partner focused in a positive direction, and increase positive emotions that are natural pressure reducers:
- Share your pressure feelings without blame. When feeling pressured, tell your partner, “I am feeling pressured,” rather than, “Stop pressuring me,” or “You always pressure me to do things.” Sharing feelings without blame promotes understanding, positive communication and intimacy, all of which decrease feelings of pressure.
- Slow down communication. Before those “pressure conversations,” remind yourself your goal is resolution, not escalation. Remain calm, speak slowly, and breathe normally –it keeps you in control of yourself so you can stay focused on the issues.
- Bedroom fun. Reduce pressure in the bedroom by remembering sex is for enjoyment and communicating positive feelings. Focus on pleasure, not performance. Music in the background will also distract you from worrying about how you are performing.
- Reduce daily feelings of pressure. Spend time appreciating your relationship and celebrate often. Get into the habit of reflecting on past positive times and expressing positive feelings to each other. Doing so increases relationship enthusiasm and optimism that reduce daily feelings of pressure.
Pressure is inherent in every relationship but those who make their relationships pressure-less have a much better chance to live happily ever after.
May the pressure NOT be with you!