You get home from work and sit down to dinner, after a long day. Your spouse immediately starts complaining about his or her job before even taking a bite. Maybe it's an irritable boss, lazy coworkers, tight deadlines, unreasonable clients or whatever the case may be. In any event, work stress has been brought home and is the topic of conversation, and it seems like it's all the time lately. Perhaps both of you are guilty of this. Is it ok to bring work problems home? Should home be a safe haven? How can you help your partner manage his or her work stress in the best way possible?
There's no short answer to these questions, because it really depends on the couple, but there are some good pointers that experts agree on, according to an article from Harvard Business Review.
Before we dive in, it should be mentioned that if you or your spouse suffers from any type of disorders or issues, like adult ADHD, anxiety, or depression, you may need to tweak some of the pointers. People with adult ADHD, for example, are more likely to experience relationship problems because they often exhibit a list of other issues such as low self-esteem, difficulty controlling anger, mood swings, and impulsiveness, among others. If this applies to you or your partner, it's best to seek treatment in order to help your relationship stay on track.
The first tip is to listen with your undivided attention and don't interrupt. You partner may just need to let off some steam and doesn't necessarily want your advice, so don't offer it right away. In addition to listening, offer supportive language to show that you hear what your partner is saying. You can be sympathetic and empathetic, but don't compare your partner's stress to yours, as it's not a competition. If it's not a great time to talk, let them know you want to follow up with the conversation at a later time when you'll have more attention to give.
Don't be afraid to judiciously and nonthreateningly ask questions and offer advice - if your partner is open to hearing it. Be gentle and try and open up your partner's perspective if you think he or she is misreading a situation.
It's also important to realize there are two kinds of work stress - sporadic and chronic. It's common for most people to experience sporadic work stress from time to time, but chronic stress may require your partner to reflect on his or her professional path (with your help).
Give your partner the freedom to pursue outside interests and hobbies. Having friendships and relationships outside of you will help take the burden off of you as the sole sounding board and source of support. Create a third space for your partner. Sometimes it's helpful to hear the same advice from more than one person before it clicks. Or perhaps different points of view and advice will help your partner see things differently, determine a solution, or just relax a bit.
Finally, it's important to instill some set of rules when it comes to bringing work home. Set certain times of the day where work devices are not on and come up with a relaxing way you and your partner can decompress together (take a walk, listen to music).