CBT and relationships – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques

In this article I will discuss Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques, the link between CBT and relationships and how to use these techniques to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your relationship.

In order to tackle stress and take positive actions to overcome anxiety, you first need to understand what stress is. Read more about Anxiety and Relationships here 

What is stress and how it works

Stress is a normal part of life which, in small amounts, can help you focus, stay safe and improve your performance. Stress can take many forms, including emotional, physical, psychological and financial.

In excessive amounts, stress can lead to anxiety and become a risk to our health. On the other side, if stress level is too low, people experience boredom and lack of motivation. It is important to find a balance and learn how to manage stress.

Moreover, anxiety and stress weaken the immune system and increase the risk to depression, high blood pressure, stomach problems, migraines, ulcers and heart disease.

How to recognize stress and its triggers?

In order to manage stress, you need to recognize when and why you feel stressed. Everyone is different and experience stress in a different way. Whilst some might notice physical symptoms when experiencing stress, others will experience stress at an emotional, behavioral or cognitive level.

Stress Symptoms

There are 4 major categories of symptoms:

  1. Physical symptoms including: racing heart, headaches, sleep disturbances, fatigue, weight loss or gain, shoulder pain
  2. Emotional symptoms including: easily frustrated, anxiety and panic attacks, irritability, anger , tearfulness
  3. Cognitive symptoms including: worrying about things, difficult concentrating, negative self-esteem, forgetting things
  4. Behavioral symptoms: alcohol and drug use, procrastinating, withdrawing socially, rushing around, overeating

What causes stress?

Stress occurs when we feel overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of our current situation. There are 3 factors that are involved in our assessment of a stressful situation: the situation, how we perceive the situation and how we assess our resources to deal with the situation.

Some people might find exciting circumstances as a new job or moving in to their new home stressful, whilst others can find difficult situations as working on a project fun and exciting.

However, the situations people are most stressed about are related to change, uncertainty, work/unemployment and relationships.

Stress can be within your control or beyond your control. If you encounter different stressor in your life at the same time, your stress levels will significantly increase.

Understand your stressors

It is very important to take the time to write down your stressors. Think about what is causing you stress at this moment in time and try to create a structured list of your stressors or reasons for feeling anxious.

An example of a structured list could include the following main categories: Health/Bereavement, Life changes, Financial difficulties, Conflicts and Personal characteristics. You can add under each category your stressors.

Coping with stress

One of the biggest mistake people make when they experience stress is to focus their whole attention on the problem that caused them stress and forget about all the activities that keep them healthy and strong.

There are 3 types of coping strategies people use when dealing with stress:

  1. Problem-focused- We try to change the situation by taking action (most effective for situations we can control)
  2. Emotional-focused-We try to manage our feelings by distracting ourselves from the problem (most effective for situations we cannot control)
  3. Assessment-focused – We try to think differently about the situation (most effective for situations we cannot control)

It is important to understand that each coping strategy can be beneficial for one situation in your life and completely unhelpful in other situations. Try to identify which coping strategy is the most helpful for each stressor identified.

How do we build resilience to stress?

Resilience is the capacity to face and overcome difficult situations in our life. Also, if we learn how to be more resilient, we become stronger when facing adversity.

Resilience is built through positive relationships with those around us, through self-care and self-development, by cultivating optimism, by setting goals, by trusting our strengths and by learning how to balance our life.

When we are stressed we ignore our strengths and focus on our weaknesses. It is important to take the time to create a list with all your strengths and rate each of them on a scale of 0-10 .

Finding your balance

Balancing your life can reduce stress significantly. Create a list with the most important areas of your life and identify if you are neglecting any of it at the moment. By focusing your attention to important aspects of your life that you might have neglected, you can reduce your anxiety and stress considerably.

Neglecting self-care can increase your anxiety and ability to deal with stress. In order to build resilience you need to work on your well-being. Meditate, exercise, engage in activities that you enjoy, learn something new, eat well and care for your health and body.

How CBT works for relationships?

Relationships are a very important part of our life. They can bring us joy, but also a lot of stress and pain.  If your relationship is not as you would like it to be, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you have a more positive relationship.

CBT explains how our communication styles can help us build and maintain healthy and positive relationships.

Communication styles

Communication is sometimes perceived as the things we say to someone. However, communication is made-up of 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% the things we actually say.

There are 3 main types of communication styles: passive, aggressive and assertive.

  1.  Passive communication involves putting the rights and needs of others first and being unable to express own feelings, thoughts and wishes. The person who has this style of communication desires to please others and avoid confrontation. The people pleaser is often frustrated, angry, mistreated, lacks self-esteem and is vulnerable to mistreatment.
  2.  Aggressive communication involves expressing thoughts, feelings and needs without taking in consideration others. The person who has this style of communication wants to dominate others and believes his rights are the most important. He has unstable relationships based on negative emotions, hurts people around and has difficulty building intimate relationships.
  3. Assertive communication is the most effective way of communication and involves expressing thoughts and feelings in an open, direct way whilst considering the feelings of others. It is a win-win communication style in which everyone’s rights are equally important. People who communicate in an assertive way gain admiration and respect from others and have high self-confidence.

Although most of the people have one main communication style, given different circumstances and people involved, their communication style might vary. Some people may be assertive in many aspects of their life, but become passive or aggressive in others.

How to become more assertive

We have already identified that assertive communication is the most effective communication style. In order to successful change your communication style you need to understand your unassertive beliefs and understand that everyone (including yourself) has the right to say no, to disagree, to get it wrong, to change their mind and be illogical in making decision.

Techniques that can help you become more assertive include:

  • ‘I’ statements- These statements help you take ownership and avoid blaming others for your decisions
  • State clearly what you want, even if sometimes might seem obvious
  • If you find it difficult to express your thoughts and feelings, practice by repeating over and over what you want to say
  • Address the problem in a respectful and direct way by presenting the situation as you see it, describing the effect it has on you and coming up with an ideal resolution for you
  • Learn the skill of saying ‘no’ without feeling guilty

Skills for de-stressing relationships 

The way we approach our relationship can determine if our relationship will ultimately be a source of stress or of joy. The following skills can help you improve your relationship considerably:

1. Active listening means paying attention with the intent to understand what your partner is saying or is not saying.  In order to develop the skill of active listening we need to concentrate on these key elements:

  •  Concentrate on what is being said and let our partner know that we paid attention by paraphrasing or summarizing what was said.
  • Don’t let emotions interfere with your ability to hear someone else’s point of view. It is best to postpone the conversation if you feel sad or stressed.
  • Try to see your partner’s point of view. You need to make a conscious decision to understand the way your partner feels/thinks/act. Unless you consciously take the decision, you will naturally try to find negative explanations for your partner’s behavior.

2. Showing appreciation– Compliment and show gratitude

  • Notice the positives in your partner and compliment him. Compliments are very important when it comes to intimate relationships.  Also, it is important to receive compliments with an open heart and accept them even if you don’t believe the same way about yourself.
  • Show gratitude- Let your partner know that you appreciate everything he is doing for you.

3. Forgiving– In order to maintain and nurture your relationship you need to let go of the past and forgive your partner, even if his actions have hurt you. Forgiving is the hardest skill to master. People tend to hold on to negative feelings which can severely damage their relationships.

Final tips for couples

In order to maintain the intimacy and bond of your relationship, you need to be affectionate with your partner, spend time together, have a weekly date night and have a low-stress conversation every day.

By practising the skills and techniques in this article you will improve your relationship with your partner, build self-esteem and develop the skills to face any challenges you might encounter.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be more than happy to answer them.

All the best,

Ioana

lovenote-4u.com

  (Accredited Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists)

For counselling and coaching appointments scan the QR code or press here.

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34 thoughts on “CBT and relationships – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Techniques”

  1. Hi Ioana, thank you for sharing this very timely post. I think the whole world is facing some kind of  extra stress during these trying times. Like anything we have to recognize the problem, accept it so we can be able to deal with it. I appreciate the way you have outlined the way to identify your stressors, and learning how to cope with stress. I do think finding a balance is key to many aspects of handling both mental, and physical problems. Self care is essential. Thank you for identifying the different types of communication. Communicating with people does cause me stress. This is a very thorough post as you have even touched on the subject of being more assertive in life, and the skills required for de-stressing relationships. This is a very essential topic as I know stress can cause many other issues.

    Best wishes,

    Michael

    Reply
    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you very much for your comment. As you said, the world is facing difficult times at the moment. Understanding stress and learning how to cope with it could reduce the level of stress in our life. I hope many people will benefit from these techniques.

      Wish you all the best,

      Ioana

      Reply
  2. As we all live and work through our lives we could all use some tools to help us live life to the fullest.  Having some skills built by using these tools would take the stress from relationships, from job situations, and daily life and allow a much more relaxed day.  Most of us are stressed because we have never learned to use some simple guidelines for working through the times we feel stressed. 

    The suggestions in this article ring true and can make any part of your life go better.  I will be returning to check out more on this site, as this information made my wheels start turning.  I am short some of the tools I need to be happier.

    Thanks, Sami

    Reply
    • Hi Sami,

      Thank you very much for your comment. You are absolutely right. Most of the tips and techniques used in CBT are simple and easy to follow. All we need is the desire to change our life and relationships for the better. 

      I hope to see you back here.

      Wish you all the best,

      Ioana

      Reply
  3. Too much stress is undeniably a negative thing in so many ways, but I agree that a small amount can motivate you and stop us from slipping into bad habits – which will hopefully ensure that people don’t take their partner for granted as much.

    Reply
  4. Luckily, I wasn’t too stressed to read this article. 😉
    Humour aside, with the covid19 shutdown and the predicted economic mayhem, I’ve corresponded with lots of people recently who’ve all spoken about the stress their under. I too can be included in that group, as I am acutely aware that only the supremely luckly will come out of 2020 totally unscathed. We live in interesting times, don’t you think?

    I will say that there’s one stress symptom you didn’t mention, and that is overeating, my personal bugbear. I’ve stuffed chocolates, biscuits and cake down my gullet like it was a prescribed prophylactic against covid19. I also found the section on coping with stress useful. I can confirm that I used the ‘problem-focus’ technique by watching loads of television; at least I could maintain control over the tv remote and watch what I wanted for as long as my eyes stayed open.

    It’s taken a while, the self-medication (eating sugary foods) and binge-watching tv have been effective. I feel refreshed and ready to enter the fray once more. Where I find your article extremely helpful is in helping me to better understand my own behaviours.I hope that others read and learn from this too.

    Reply
    • Hi Tayo,

      Thank you so much for your comment. You are absolutely right, one of the behavioral symptoms of stress is overeating. I have now added it to the list. 

      I am very happy to see that my article has helped you in these difficult times and I hope as many people as possible will benefit from it.

      Wish you all the best,

      Ioana

      Reply
  5. Wonderful. Thanks for the thorough and insightful article.

    Stress, anxiety, and depression are so prevalent. Coping and managing emotions/life are skills we all should work on!

    Reply
    • Hi Charles,

      Thank you for your comment. I cannot agree more with you, there is nothing more important in our self-development journey than to manage our negative emotions.

      All the best,

      Ioana

      Reply
  6. Thanks for this post Ioana, it is very timely as there is so much stress going around the world right now. To understand my situation, I need to make a structured list of my stressors, they are scattered all over my head right now. And covid – 19 is not making it any easier. I’ll go get started with my list, thanks again Ioana. 

    Reply
    • Hi Juliet,

      I am very happy to see that you enjoyed my article. I totally agree with you, Covid-19 is adding a lot of stress to all of us. I hope these techniques can help people manage their stress. I am planning to write more in depth about CBT as I personally find the techniques and skills very useful. 

      Wish you all the best ,

      Ioana

      Reply
  7. Ioana,

    This is another post that is great for couples to read.
    Communication is key in understanding each other especially when one is stressed out or both of us are stressed out due to work loads, obligations at home, and even the stress from the relationship itself. When we can understand what cause the stress, we can work together to overcome it and it will not only help the relationship because we work together as a team to overcome the stress, but it will also get the couples to be more aware of each other’s hardships.

    Reply
    • Hi Ferra,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I could not agree with you more- Couples should work together and be more aware of other’s hardships.

      Kind regards,
      Ioana

      Reply
  8. Hi Ioana,
    I wonder how many people forget to show appreciation in mature relationships. When the relationship is new and exciting we feel mandated to show our partner how grateful we are for their smallest input because it makes us so happy and fulfilled. We should not take one another for granted.
    Great article.

    Reply
    • Hi Ali,

      Thank you very much for your comment. It is very true, once the relationship matures, couples forget to show appreciation and take things for granted. It is important to show appreciation at any stages of our relationship .

      All the best,
      Ioana

      Reply
  9. I get stressed very easily and I have to admit that it does affect my relationships with other people. Especially my intimate relationship. I get aggressive easily and everything feels like a chore on top of my existing problems when I’m stressed. I’m familiar with CBT because I’ve had to resort to therapy in the past.

    Recently I’ve been listening to Eckhart Tolles book Power of Now after finding his channel in YouTube. I think he’s really on to something, even if you don’t want to accept his spiritual beliefs (they are something I’m open to). Fear, anger and stress stem from living in the past and the future. If you live in the present moment, you can let go of the burden of the past and the future, they are not true. But letting go is the hard part and you need to practice it constantly in the beginning. I actually think the basic idea is very similar to CBT. Just wanted to share this in case someone might find it as beneficial as I have!

    Reply
    • Hi Jukka,

      Thank you very much for your comment. I will be listening to the book,I just looked for it and realised it is approximately 7 hours audio book on Youtube. I have used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and find its tools and techniques very useful , so I thought to share some of them. I will probably write more in depth about CBT. I will be listening to the audio book and let you know what I think.Thank you very much for your recommendation.

      Wish you all the best,
      Ioana

      Reply
  10. Very interesting article and have actually made a note of it, keep up the good work and im sure things will work out good 🙂
    The size and structure to this article I do love.
    Jason 🙂

    Reply
  11. Hey Ioana, I found this post very informative! I strongly believe that the entire universe is currently experiencing challenging times due to the ongoing pandemic. Literally, we ought to find out what is causing stress and get ready to manage stress.

    If we can maintain self-care, we’ll certainly be able to handle both physical and mental stress. I appreciate you emphasizing the different kinds of communication and how to de-stress relationships.

    Olatunji

    Reply
    • Hi Olatunji,

      You are right, during these times it is extremely important to recognise the causes of stress and learn how to overcome them. Moreover, relationships can be affected by this pandemic as well. It is important to communicate with our partners and learn how to de-stress our relationships. 

      Kind regards,

      Ioana

      Reply
  12. I know for a fact that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been instrumental in my personal growth over the last several years and, in turn, has been crucial to the growth of my relationship with my wife. You give some really good tips about de-stressing relationships. It is so key to actively listen, without letting emotion get in the way of things. Forgiveness is something I think a lot of couples find hard to do, but must if they are to grow closer together!

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      I am happy to see how you have benefited from Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.  It is such a great tool for anyone who experiences stress and problems in their life. And yes, forgiveness is the hardest thing to do in a relationship and without forgiving our partner, our relationship will always suffer. 

      Kind regards,

      Ioana

      Reply
  13. In this technological age, the problem of stress is becoming the part of our daily life since it can come from every aspects of our life. I totally agree with your notion– “UNDERSTAND YOUR STRESSOR”. I’m the one who can get stress easily. When I’m still a teenager, I will eat whole bunch of foods when I’m in stress, but this action doesn’t help me much and even get my stress worst. So I decided to live with it, I try to know my stress by writing down all my negative thoughts and gibberish. After I wrote them down then I faced it, I feel a lots easier. Even though the stress is still there, but I know the only way for me to deal with it is to solve the problems that are making me stress. As the time goes by, I feel that I can handle my stress already. It’s really important for us to learn to live with our stress since it’s not a bad things when you think it may not a negative emotion.

    Thanks for your amazing article. It’s a great input and lighting up my day.

    Reply
    • Hi Jolly,

      I am glad to see that your life has improved in the moment you understood your stressors and wrote them down. This is a great technique that we can use in order to understand and overcome stress in our life! 

      Wish you all the best in your journey!

      Kind regards,

      Ioana

      Reply
  14. Hello Ioana, 

    Indeed an awesome post there. Communication is key in every relationship,  and its very important we know how to communicate out thoughts to our partner just as you have mentioned above but sometimes we get very overwhelmed by the many troubles of this world an we get stressed and many times this affect our communication because really at that stage all we want is a break. So how do we really deal with this?

    Reply
    • Hi Jomata,

      In times when we feel stressed, overwhelmed and we need a break from the world to recharge, we can use these communication tips presented in the article and explain to our partner, in a respectful and nice manner that we need some time alone before we are ready to share our problems with them. This approach works every time as our partner will be aware of our needs and respect our request. 

      Kind regards,

      Ioana

      Reply
  15. Hello there, thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful piece of information here with us. I must say i really did enjoyed going through your article. Having some skills built by using these tools would take the stress from relationships, from job situations, and daily life and allow a much more relaxed day.  Most of us are stressed because we have never learned to use some simple guidelines for working through the times we feel stressed. Thanks 

    Reply
    • Hi Philibur,

      Thank you for reading my article and deciding to practice these techniques. I am confident that they will help you overcome stress, improve your relationships and your quality of life. 

      Kind regards,

      Ioana

      Reply
  16. Hey nice article you have there. Thanks for this timely information. I have been passing through stress for sometime now, and this has really affected my approach and response to friends. Having stumbled into this article, I am convinced that with every tips highlighted here, I can have a perfect control and management of my stress. Hoping for the best results, Regards

    Reply
    • Hi Edahnewton,

      I am happy to see that you will start practising the techniques presented here.  I hope that you will manage to overcome stress and improve your quality of life and your relationships. 

      Wish you all the best,

      Ioana

      Reply

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