When times are tough and things feel rocky, resilience is the first step to getting back on track.
If you’re facing a moment like this, it may feel hopeless and you may even worry about your relationship surviving it.
But rest assured, even in hard times, there are things both partners can do to not only better support one another, but also grow in love and resilience together.
In this post, you’ll learn how men and women handle stress differently, what each partner needs to feel supported and good, and things you can do today to strengthen your relationship and grow in love during times of crisis and stress.
What Resilience Is
Resilience is our ability to bounce back at times of stress and, rather than react automatically, respond consciously in a positive way.
At times of crisis, when we’re being challenged by uncertainty or don’t feel that we have the support we need to feel centered and safe, what happens is a stress reaction.
Our reaction is based upon the reactions that our parents had when they were under stress.
These are all kinds of reactions that we have at times of stress.
Our mind goes into a bias towards negativity.
The definition of a reaction is something that’s automatic.
But a response is not automatic.
It’s a choice we make after our automatic response.
The problem is if we don’t know what resilience is — or how to build it so we can respond instead of react — we sabotage our relationships.
Whenever we encounter a problem, we have the potential to react in a way that can make it worse and worse and worse. That’s called escalation.
For example, perhaps one person complains. So then the other person reacts and complains back. Then, that causes the first person to complain back again, and it keeps going!
When that happens, you don’t solve the problem.
Instead, you have an escalation of tension where we’re reacting and reacting and reacting, rather than responding to the needs of our partner at that time.
So, what can we do to stop the cycle of reactivity and instead build resilience?
First, Shift Yourself Out of the Reactive State
When we’re in a reactive state, as men and women, we need to first take responsibility and make the change inside of ourselves.
Our job isn’t to change our partner; our job is to change something within ourselves.
We often get caught up in trying to help or change our partners.
But resilience is first coming back to a positive, open-hearted response in ourselves.
When our heart is open, we’ll experience these qualities:
- A feeling of love and acceptance
- A sense of understanding and forgiveness
- Deep trust that our partner is doing the best they can
But when we’re in a reactive state, we don’t have those feelings.
We may know we feel that way, but we’re not actually feeling that way.
Once we know how to do that for ourselves, then we have the ability to help our partners do that.
That’s what resilience is. And understanding the differences between men and women allows you to do this much easier.
Men and Women Have Different Needs Under Stress
If I’m in a reactive state as a man, it means my hormones are out of balance.
This is because my masculine hormone, testosterone, needs to be about 10 to 30 times higher than a woman’s testosterone to experience a stress-free state.
That’s the only way I’m going to have a response rather than a reaction.
So what I need to do at times of reactiveness are things that will help my hormones come back to balance.
For one thing, I need to stop talking because talking increases female hormones!
If I’m talking about my feelings and what I’m upset about, my estrogen goes up, my testosterone goes down, and I become more stressed.
So men have to learn to stop talking when they’re under stress, and go to their cave.
I write about that in my book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus.
When men go to their cave to:
- Cool down
- Temporarily forget the problem
- Do something they’re good at
- Feel good again
…that’s a very good thing!
Some men aren’t even aware of how important it is; they just tend to do it.
And they may feel shame or guilt for doing it if their wife or girlfriend thinks they’re pulling away.
But the truth is that this is what resilience is for him.
It’s how he shifts to come back to a response.
How he becomes resilient in a difficult situation is first taking time for himself.
But women need something entirely different!
What Women Need When They’re in a Reactive State
When they’re feeling stress hormones, women have a much greater need to generate more of the female hormone, estrogen.
Women can generate more estrogen by doing:
- Something she loves to do
- Something she enjoys doing
- Sharing her feelings of upset with a good friend that she’s not upset with
If you’re a woman reading this, communication would be very productive for you in building resilience if you’re not communicating with your partner.
If your heart is closed and you’re experiencing reactivity, what you’ll tend to do is escalate problems and conflict.
So the best thing to do when both partners are feeling reactive is to take a time out.
During this time out, she can get her needs met and he can get his needs met.
Then, you can come back together from a place where you’re not needing your partner to change.
Resilience is knowing when to take time apart so you can return to a more loving state before communicating.
That’s how we can best become resilient to stress in our lives:
- We may get triggered or upset, but it doesn’t have to snowball.
- Instead, we get the unique support we need to feel centered and safe.
- Then, we can make conscious choices from our most wise and capable selves.
Resilience is doing all of this rather than operating from an inherited stress reaction.
And once you’re in a responsive state, then you can help your partner.
If you’re a woman wondering: “He’s in his cave. He’s out of work. It’s a really hard time for him. What can I do for him?”
What you can do for him to start is this:
Don’t try to change him because he needs to come back to being responsible for himself.
Instead, give him opportunities to change you. Ultimate relationship resilience is seeing opportunities to give one another the unique support you each need to feel centered and safe.
This is what allows each partner to access their wisest, most capable self.
Here’s what I mean…
3 Things Women Can Do to Help When He’s in His Cave or Feeling Low
First of all, it’s very important that you don’t make him the problem that needs to be solved.
1. You can ask for connection without making your feelings his fault.
For example, you can say: “You know, I know you’re going through so much and you need your space and that’s all good. Sometimes I miss you, and so many things happened today. I just wanted to connect with you and feel that connection. You don’t have to say anything or do anything. I just want to share with you what’s going on inside of me.”
When you connect, just focus on communicating that the…
…you’re feeling are not about him.
Then he’ll be able to listen and not feel that if you’re unhappy, it’s another thing he failed at.
2. You can give him things to do for you!
Men increase testosterone by doing things and feeling successful.
And, particularly if he’s out of work and it’s a really hard time for him, he will not be able to be his best self.
But if he’s doing things for you to help you feel better, that will actually make him feel better.
So you can give him little tasks to do.
- Don’t say: “You need to be doing something. You need to be romantic.”
- Just simply ask, “Honey, would you help me with this?”
Little tasks he can do to give you attention, affection, and interest will boost your estrogen. When that happens, it makes him feel a little better!
3. Ignore his bad mood and share your happiness with him.
One time I had a big blow in my career and I was rather depressed. I remember being curled up in bed, rather upset. And my wife, Bonnie, wanted to help me.
She read my book and knew the best way to help a man when he’s not feeling good is to do something to make you happy and he’ll take credit for it.
So she got the support of a friend, they went shopping, and she bought some nice clothes. Afterward, she came home, ignored that I was in a bad mood, and asked if she could show me the dresses she bought.
As she started showing me what made her happy, my mood started to change.
When a man is not happy, a woman’s happiness actually makes him feel happier.
That’s often not intuitive for women because it’s different for them.
If she’s unhappy, and a man ignores it and shares his happiness, she’ll actually become more unhappy!
But her happiness will make him happy and will help him feel better.
So, what can a man do to help a woman?
What a Man Can Do to Help a Woman When She’s Feeling Low
For a man, when a woman is not feeling good, here’s what he needs to do:
- Don’t try to change how she feels.
- Do little things to offer help.
- Ask: “What I can do to help?”
By doing things for her, she feels:
- “I’m not alone.”
- “He cares about me.”
- “I’m a priority.”
- “I can depend on him.”
- “He does care.”
For her, it’s lots of little things that do the trick.
Because then her estrogen levels will start to rise, her cortisol levels will start to go down and she’ll find her resilient self.
This is what will help her open her heart, even when things aren’t perfect.
These are some tips to help you and your partner find your resilience when you’re being challenged in life.
Remember, ultimate relationship resilience is seeing opportunities to give one another the unique support you each need to feel centered and safe.
This is what allows each partner to access their wisest, most capable self.
A relationship and partnership has the power to support us in being our best, strongest, most resilient selves so we can rise above any challenge and come out even more loving, even more authentic, even more wise.
And the bonus is you get to grow more deeply in love and intimacy even through tough times.
Grow in love,