No relationship is without its problems. Dealing with these issues is the only way of ensuring they don't undermine your relationship. The worst thing you can do is ignore the tension, says Judy Ford, licensed clinical social worker and author of "Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other," according to the Psych Central article "How Couples Can Help Each Other De-stress and Improve Their Relationship." Ignoring this problem will only heighten feelings of stress, frustration and disconnection.
Do Some Soul-Searching
Work out where the tension is coming from. Perhaps there is a general feeling of stress in the relationship that stems from a lack of intimacy, a betrayal or a failure to communicate. Maybe it comes down to an unresolved disagreement over an important issue, such as whether to get married. Identify whether the tension comes from you, your partner or both of you. Both of you need to work out how you feel about the issue, and why you feel that way. It's common to feel anger toward a partner if things aren't going well in the relationship, says Robert Taibbi, a licensed clinical social worker with nearly four decades of experience, in the article "The Art of Solving Relationship Problems" for "Psychology Today." Anger is likely to be triggered by a deeper emotion, such as fear or hurt. Define what you need from the relationship that you're not currently getting, and come up with some ways to make it happen. For example, if you believe the tension stems from your feelings of hurt that your boyfriend would rather spend his free time with his friends than with you, you might suggest arranging a romantic date night every week.
Find Time to Talk
Approaching your partner with kindness and compassion is the first step toward working together to ease the tension. Pick a good time to talk, when you're both fairly happy and relaxed and neither of you have to rush off to work or an appointment. Choose a quiet, private place where you won't be disturbed or distracted. Start the conversation by saying something such as "I feel as if there's tension between us, and I want us to work out what we can do to make it go away." Use "I" statements, such as the preceding one, instead of "you" statements, such as "You make me feel so angry," so your boyfriend doesn't feel as if you are attacking or blaming him, advises Taibbi.
Create Common Ground
Look for common ground instead of focusing on complaints, suggests John Gottman, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, in his book "The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work." Discuss how you can resolve your issues and create a happier, healthier relationship; for example, taking up a hobby together may strengthen your bond by bringing out your fun side and letting you spend quality time together on a regular basis.
Make Him Laugh
Humor can be an extremely effective way to ease tension in a relationship, say Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A., in the article "Fixing Relationship Problems with Humor" for HelpGuide.org. Use gentle, well-timed humor to diffuse conflict and put things into perspective. Remind your boyfriend of something amusing that happened at the beginning of your relationship, when things were more lighthearted and fun. Call him by the cute pet name you have for him. Make sure the joking is mutual and not likely to cause defensiveness or hurt your partner.
When to Get Help
A qualified couples counselor or relationship therapist may be able to help you resolve the tension in your relationship if you discover that the issues are too big for you to handle alone--if infidelity or mental health problems play a role, for instance. If you and your boyfriend are both committed to saving the relationship, speaking to an experienced professional can be a positive step in the right direction.
- Huffington Post: Relationship Conflict -- The Difference Between Withdrawing and Disengaging
- Help Guide: Fixing Relationship Problems with Humor
- Psych Central: How Couples Can Help Each Other De-stress and Improve Their Relationship
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work; John Gottman
- Psychology Today: The Art of Solving Relationship Problems
- MM Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images