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Avoid the Adult Tantrum Hour

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Posted by Christina Hills on March 27, 2012 at 5:42 PM

How awesome would it be if you could walk through the door after work, shed the stress of your day, and immediately launch into some quality bonding time with your guy? Well, this isn't the set of a sitcom, girls. Research shows that the hour after you get home from your job is a tricky time for couples—it's often marked by moodiness and bickering, especially with job satisfaction levels at record lows. Throw in a road-rage-inducing commute, a growling tummy, and a few buzzing gadgets reminding you of tomorrow's to-do list…let’s just say we aren’t always at our best.

It only makes sense. We've been holding our tongues all day, so coming home means you can let loose with—or lash out at—your partner. But there is a flip side: Learning to successfully pilot that after-work hour together can help you build a stronger union. In fact, couples who deal with stress together are happier in their relationships than couples who don't handle the daily grind as a pair, according to a study in the Journal of Family Psychology. Follow these three steps to ensure smoother sailing until lights-out.

First 20 Minutes: De-stress, Alone
As soon as you walk through the door, find a way to rid yourself of office worries. Taking the time to unwind could be the most important thing you do for your relationship. Studies show that, under normal conditions, if your partner does something insensitive, you tend to give him the benefit of the doubt. But that feeling fades fast when you're stressed.

Taking a mental load off may be as simple as putting the BlackBerry out of reach and scoring some solo time with a glass of wine, a book, or walk around the block with Fido. This will help you transition from the role of stressed employee to that of supportive partner. Tell your partner you need 15 minutes to change your clothes and take off your makeup before fixing dinner or dealing with housework. And if you come home before he does, give him the same space to decompress when he walks through the door.

Second 20 Minutes: Whine Wisely

Permission to bitch granted. On condition. Often talking about the details of our problems is not only a release from the tension of the day but also a way of bonding with our partner. If done correctly, it's an essential part of a healthy relationship.

But there's a fine line between sharing your feelings and dumping on your guy. You need to give your partner some power to call you out. Start a venting session by saying, "I've had a really crappy day and I need to talk about it, but tell me if I go overboard." Also, be sure to keep things big picture, rather than getting into the nitty-gritty details. It mirrors how men communicate, so he'll be more apt to pay attention, and it will help you keep your complaints in perspective.

If you just can't resist giving him the deets, try the inverted-pyramid style of conversation. Begin with the most interesting info or what’s really bothering you (e.g., "My boss postponed my performance review for the second time")—and then go through the whole story. That way, even if he tunes out at some point, he'll get the gist, and you'll get it off your chest.

Last 20 Minutes: Show Your Support
Yes, the latest episode of Danicng with the Starsis loaded on your DVR, but resist the urge to tune in and tune out once your guy starts talking about his messed up presentation…or the fact that his soccer team lost…or the message from his mom asking what time you'll do Sunday dinner.

Guys are not known for dishing the details right away, so it may take him a while to open up after a tough day at work. But when he does, listen to him in the same way you want him to listen when you speak—sympathetically and without offering quick-fix ideas that can feel patronizing.

If hearing him drone on about his troubles seems a little too tedious, one, get over it – he listened to you – and two, know that there's something in it for both of you: Couples who help each other cope with daily stress have more sex and even orgasm more frequently, found a study reported in the Journal of Family Psychology. Now that's ending the day on a high note.

Two More Crucial Times for Your Relationship

First thing in the morning

Morning breath, be damned – the wee hours are ideal together-time. Couples who simply say good morning to each other, grab a quick breakfast together, or share their commute are happier. Or try a little less conversation, a little more action: Guys are hardwired for morning wood, so rise-and-shine sex can set the tone for a pretty great day for both of you.

Bedtime

When wives took longer to fall asleep at night, they felt more negative about their marriages the next day -- and so did their husbands. (Husbands' sleep patterns, however, did not affect the couples' contentment.) Experts say spending time with your spouse helps you power down, so schedule some pillow talk right before bed to prep you for sleep and catch up with your honey.

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