from the Submissive Guide Newsletter 1-23-16

Stress comes in many forms. Perhaps your partner is having trouble at work. Or maybe he’s caring for his aging parents. Or perhaps there’s tension between your Dominant and an extended family member or close friend. Or maybe your Dominant is sick, suffering from a health problem or concern. Research suggests that couples who actively manage stress together improve their relationship durability over time.

“Stress impacts our love relationships more than we are aware of or acknowledge,” according to Judy Ford, a licensed clinical social worker and author of Every Day Love: The Delicate Art of Caring for Each Other. Part of the problem is that stress is entrenched in our everyday. “Stress has become such a normal part of daily life that partners become immune to the symptoms and warning signs,” she said.

Whatever it is, your Dominant has been distant, touchy, and absent—shirking his usual responsibilities. You want to be there, but you also want to be treated with respect.

What to do?

  1. Voice the effect this stress has on your relationship and your submission to them. Don’t ignore it or talk around it. At the same time, don’t judge. Voice it as evidence, in much the same way a scientist might note the behavior of a mouse he or she is studying. You might say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been getting takeout instead of cooking lately” or “whenever I try to talk to you, you seem distant. I’d love to know what’s going on.”
  2. State your concerns. Often, what’s really on your mind is this: fear. Few of us, however, are willing to admit that. So we end up talking around the fear, often blaming the stressed person, which ends up starting a fight. Simply state the truth, “I’m worried that we are growing apart” or “I’m worried that I can’t handle this all without your help” or “I’m afraid you don’t trust me enough to open up to me.” Have the courage to be vulnerable. It’s your vulnerability that will allow your Dominant to feel safe enough to lean on you.
  3. Recognize and respect different coping mechanisms: People cope very differently with stress. Some people like to talk everything out as soon as possible, while others need silent downtime. It’s important to recognise you and your partner might not cope in the same way, and there isn’t necessarily a “right” way. Try to accept differences and find ways to accommodate and facilitate your partner to cope in their own way.
  4. Listen. Our partners just want to be seen, heard and acknowledged. Rather than do that, however, many of us attempt to solve their problem. After all, it’s a lot easier to solve other people’s problems than it is to solve our own. If you feel the urge to jump in and offer advice, hold back. Instead, listen and acknowledge with statements like, “That must be hard for you” and “That must be so frustrating.” Know that sometimes listening means that you don’t press when your Dominant says, “I don’t want to talk about it.” It also might mean that you don’t jabber away when your partner is anxious, because your chatter just works to heighten the anxiety. Be okay with silence. It might not be what you would need in such a situation, but it might be exactly what your Dominant needs.
  5. Be there. This might be as simple as sitting quietly with them while you hold hands. Or it might entail accompanying your Dominant during a stressful moment, such as visiting the doctor for test results. It might be rubbing their feet. It could be initiating in the bedroom—and doing all the physical work during the actual event, too. Being there means that you do what you need to do to get your own mind under control. Do deep breathing, meditation, exercise or venting (to your friends, not to your Dominant) to get your own stress out of your system. But don’t try to control your Dominant’s mind. Don’t say things like, “You have nothing to feel scared about” or “This is nothing to stress over.” That minimizes your partner’s situation. If you want to know what it feels like to be minimized, think about how you felt the last time someone told you to stop worrying, stop being so angry, or stop feeling so stressed over something so minor.
  6. Temporarily ease the burden. If needed, offer to pick up some slack around the house or elsewhere to free up your Dominant to deal with this stressful issue with his or her full attention. Help them solve problems.
  7. Care for yourself. Again, this is where so many of us (myself included) go wrong. We spend so much time caring for our Dominant that we neglect our own needs. Soon we’re the ones who need special nursing and attention.
  8. Allow your Dominant to seek refuge in television reruns, too much sleep, or some other seemingly dysfunctional practice, especially if your partner doesn’t usually wallow in this way. On the other hand, if your Dominant is constantly stressed—the kind of person who is a walking basket case 24/7/365—then you’ll want to create a boundary. It might sound like this, “I’m going to be here for you as much as I can until the end of the month. After that, I really think that it’s time for you to try counseling.”

Have you supported your Dominant through a stressful time? What worked? What didn’t? Has your partner supported you? What did you find helpful? What drove you nuts? What additional advice do you think others might try?