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1. Avoid making negative assumptions. If something happens that you have no control over, don't make things worse by assuming the worst. If someone loses their job it doesn't help to conclude that you will also lose your home and everything you have worked for. Instead of focusing on the negative possibilities, sit down with your mate and discuss possible solutions. If you work together in a creative way you may be able to turn this challenge into an opportunity. This is the time to let your partnership shine.

2. Don't be critical or assign blame. The blame game is very destructive to a relationship and it never contributes to unity. The goal here is to draw closer as a couple, not to alienate your best friend and life partner. The same goes for being critical of one another, all that will do is divide the relationship. Let's face it, sometimes bad things happen, that's just the way life is. Looking at each challenge as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship bond will help you avoid the temptation to blame your mate.

3. Acknowledge your partner's concerns. If something goes wrong and we feel responsible, it is easy to turn defensive when our partner expresses their concerns. Rather that turning it into a confrontation by defending ourselves, we need to put our egos aside and acknowledge their concerns with an understanding heart. If we are truly partners then we are in it together. That means we probably have similar concerns that we need to work on in a spirit of cooperation.

4. Respond rather than react. The difference between a response and a reaction has to do with the amount and type of emotion that's involved. When we just react to bad news it is very likely that our reaction will also include a negative emotional component. If we choose to respond rather than react, our knee jerk reaction will be softened by our desire to maintain peace and unity in our relationship. A response allows room for more positive emotions like compassion and understanding.

5. Honor each other's feelings. The way men and women respond to stress is often very different. To the man, it might seem like she is attaching too much emotional significance to the situation. To the woman, it might seem like he is just blowing it off or ignoring the problem. Recognizing that we all express our concerns in different ways makes it easier to honor the feelings and expressions of our mate. The fact that we express our feelings differently does not mean that one person's way is more valid than their mate's, it's just different.

6. Identify the real source of the stress. If we are feeling stress in our relationship, we need to figure out where it is coming from. If the source of the stress is external (outside the relationship), don't treat it like a relationship problem. See it for what it is! Statistically, money issues account for more relationship problems than any other source. But in reality, money is a financial problem. It only becomes a relationship problem if you let it. Working together as partners is a much more effective way to solve money problems than fighting about it.

7. Treat your mate with respect. There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. How sad is that? Unfortunately, we tend to be less resourceful when we are under stress. The last thing we want to do under those conditions is be disrespectful to the person we share our life with. In reality, it's not familiarity that breeds contempt; it's a lack of respect and consideration. You can promote unity and decrease relationship stress by always maintaining a high level of respect for your partner, regardless of the challenges you face.

8. Seek opportunities to encourage each other. How do you feel when your partner expresses confidence in you? It's encouraging, isn't it? And this is especially true during those challenging times when you may be experiencing feelings of self-doubt. Nothing lifts us up and restores our confidence like the encouragement of our special someone. Mutual encouragement is one of the most powerful anti-stress tools your relationship has, be sure to make good use of it. Instead of waiting for stressful situations to present themselves, why not seek every opportunity to be encouraging.

9. Differentiate between the relationship and the problem. It is vital to always recognize the difference between the actual relationship and the problems and challenges you face. The love you feel for one another needs to be protected from the problems you encounter. Confusing the two is relationship suicide. To do this we need to work at confining our response to stress so it doesn't poison our feeling about our mate.

10. Reaffirm your partnership often. It is important to remind yourself that you are allies in every struggle and challenge. Remind each other that you are there for your mate no matter what. If you make a mistake, being quick to apologize demonstrates your commitment to the partnership. Being forgiving has a similar effect. Regularly letting your partner sense how much you value the relationship will help clear away any doubts caused by trying situations.

11. Get help if you need it. When things get confusing, don't be too proud or stubborn to seek qualified help. Sometimes we are so close to a situation that we lose our objectivity. An impartial third party like a relationship coach can often see things much more clearly and provide valuable insight at just the right time. If we truly value our closest relationship then we should be willing to do whatever it takes to strengthen those special bonds of love and unity.

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