Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

relationship psychotherapy for couples in conflict west los angeles

The temperature heats up and stresses you out, killing off your flower of connection.

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Fighting brings stress and stress makes a couple go back to their corners in frustration

A couple of long standing has a heated argument. He shuts down and she ramps up. They eventually give up the struggle to deal with the same old issues and go back to their corners for a breather before the next futile round. Disappointment turns to numbness and coldness. Intimacy disappears. The marriage is on fragile grounds.

 Does that sound familiar? Have you tried to get out of this mess but feel stymied?

That maybe because men and women operate differently when both are under stress and the relationship stakes are high. A willingness and a desire to get stuck in and deal with the issues openly and collaboratively gives the marriage a back bone and ensures its survival as a living, energy giving force.

managing stress in marriage psychotherapy west los angeles 

Stress makes everything tangled up and unmanagable

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Perhaps you have that desire but don’t know how to make it work.

That’s how Reid and Gilda felt. Gilda brought issues to Reid when they stressed her out. She was already feeling the pressure of wanting to find answers and relief from her stress. Reid got a double dose of stress at his end- the stress of the problem that Gilda brought as a matter of urgency and the stress of seeing his wife overwhelmed and anxious.

Research evidence indicates that men shut down parts of the brain while women ratchet up the same brain areas

It was too much for Reid and he shut down. He didn’t register her trembling hands, her frowns, her frightened eyes or her frightened voice. The journal NeuroReport published an article in 2010 describing how the part of the brain that processes and interprets facial and emotional information shuts down when men are under acute stress. There is decreased activity in that part of the brain preventing an accurate read of the situation. In addition other parts of the brain don’t coordinate their services to help manage the situation. That’s what would typically happen to Reid when Gilda came at him with her stress and anxiety.


Gilda on the other hand would become even more activated and increase her sense of urgency, trying to get Reid to respond and match her emotional state. The same journal article described that women under acute stress have increased activity in those parts of the brain that interpret emotions and other parts come together to coordinate responses to it.


So as Gilda gets fully charged and is at her optimal state for working with Reid on their problems, he is at his weakest point and is unable to join her in that moment. Gilda feels frustrated and helpless. She accuses Reid of being disinterested and leaving her alone to sort out their problems.

Reid is in a state of comparative numbness. His system is making him numb and unresponsive. The more numbly he behaves, the more Gilda tries to fire him up with accusations of being uncaring and selfish. He calls her a nag and accuses her of not being able to let anything go.


Gilda goes back to her corner feeling thwarted and just plain ignored. She treats Reid with a mix of scolding and iciness for some time to come.


Reid goes back to his corner feeling unfairly treated and misunderstood. He is not inclined to engage with her and withdraws in protest.

preparation is like a perfectly formed rose bud that holds the petals together 

preparation for discussion is like a rose that holds the petals together even in a stormy time!

photograph copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

So how can Reid and Gilda get out of this destructive pattern that threatens to ruin their relationship?

 1.      Gilda can prepare an item of mutual concern to be discussed and present it to Reid in advance.


  • Gilda is taking action which will reduce the immediate anxiety and stress.
  •  Gilda won’t impose a double dose of stress on Reid.
  •  Reid will have time to focus on the issue without pressure and stress. His brain will work effectively.


2.      Reid and Gilda agree on a set time to talk about the issue that both have been brewing and come ready to collaborate.


  • Stress is reduced because uncertainty about getting together has been eliminated.
  •  Reid’s brain can work more like Gilda’s brain, processing and coordinating pertinent information that allows them to work in harmony.
  •  Gilda and Reid are more evenly matched and will feel like they are on the same page.


3.      3. Gilda and Reid have all parts of their brains ready for active coordination where two heads definitely operate better than one.


  • Joint solutions are more likely. Gilda and Reid are more united in their joint endeavor and feel supported by one another.
  •  There are no accusations or protests that drive them apart, even if they aren’t fully agreed on the solution.
  •  They are in a place where they are emotionally calm and available for compromise.


Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.


Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may experience while reading the article or implementing the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.