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Use Monologing to Save Your Holidays
Monologing can help bring comfort and joy and help alleviate stresses that come with the holidays.


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Exercising the proper communication skills can help in times of demand and stress.


Skipping the holidays may come to mind, but it is not a valid option. The next best answer is to practice staying out of each otherís emotional upset zone. This technique is called monologing.
Relationships are like the proverbial canary in the mine shaft, in that they are the first to be affected by stress and tension. When we are upset, we typically donít snap at our friends or co-workers, instead it all comes out towards our spouse. Although the holidays are intended to be a time of joy and celebration, the holidays also bring stress, which in turn gets dumped in our relationships.

The explanation for why the holidays create stress is very simple. Stress is another way of saying, "demand." When you place high demands on an engine or heavy loads on a piece of architecture you can also say you are placing stress on the engine or the buildingó the word is interchangeable. The same is true for our emotions, when there are demands on us emotionally we feel it as stress. Whatís interesting from an emotional point of view is that the demands can be positive or negative, it doesn't matter.

Armed with this new understanding, it should become obvious why holidays like Hanukkah and Christmas can be filled with stress because of the added demands created by these celebrations. Gifts, meals, visiting relatives and extra cleaning all produce added pressure.

Tension, frustration, irritation and a general lack of patience are all the common reactions to stress. Without an emotional cushion, our tolerance level drops and before we know it we are snapping at each other over trivial issues. Your spouse is unfortunately just as stressed as you are and their reaction is to snap back, which sets off conflict. So what should be done? What can be done? Skipping the holidays may come to mind, but it is not really a valid option. The next best answer is to practice staying out of each otherís emotional upset zone. This technique is called monologing.

The Art of Monologing
There are seven essential communication skills taught at Help Talking, from loving to problem solving, but the one most relevant to the season is learning how to stay out of each otherís stress. The key idea here is that there can only be one crazy person in the relationship at a time. By only having one person venting their stress at a time it prevents a relationship from feeding off negativity and becoming explosive. When your partner is stressed and you remain calm, it gives them a chance to dissipate their energy and feel better. Likewise, when you are venting and your spouse can remain a neutral sounding board, it will give you a safe place to discharge.

One simple technique for creating a constructive monologue is to find an object like a tissue box or pillow and allow that to signify who is taking and who is listening. Hold on to the pillow as long as you need in order to say everything that needs to be shared. The other person can and should make comments, but all the remarks should be focused on supporting what the person with the pillow is saying. If the person with the pillow is repeating themself, it is because he/she does not feel heard, and the listener (the one without the pillow) will need to redouble their efforts to let the speaker know he/she is being heard and understood.

This maybe one of those situations where it is easier said than done. Learning to monologue can take some practice and know how. A relationship coach or a marriage counselor can really assist by stopping reactivity or defensiveness and keep the monologue focused and productive. Before your next blowout, go online and find a professional who understands the art of monologing and keep your holidays and your relationship joyful.

Brett Williams ( www.helptalking.com ) is the clinical director of Help Talking, coaching couples through conflict (http://www.helptalking.com); and executive director of the non-profit OC Marriage, flooding Orange County with marriage education classes (http://www.ocmarriage.com). He is also the author of "You Can Be Right Or You Can Be Married" (http://www.helptalking.com/book).


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