Energetic Stress Styles: What They Are + How They Can Affect Your Love Life

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“Hi. I’m Gloria. I’m a Visual. What are you?”

This could become a new dating line — once the word has spread that understanding your own and your partner’s Energetic Stress Style is key to long-term happiness.

Your primary Energetic Stress Style kicks in automatically when you’re upset. We, in fact, tend to process deep relationship distress in one of four wildly unique patterns: Visual, Kinesthetic, Digital, or Tonal. Actions and verbal responses follow.

What usually happens, based on our natural preference to attract people different from ourselves, is that your partner has a distinctly different stress style from your own — meaning that when you go into your energy stress mode, your partner probably doesn’t understand at all. And vice versa. You’ve temporarily lost all connection.

Whatever style you manifest, you were born this way, so it’s better to try to understand it than to fight your true nature. Once you understand your Energetic Stress Style, as well as your partner’s, you can clear the atmosphere and get back to cuddling by the fire.

To determine your primary Energetic Stress Style, ask yourself:

Which of these sounds like me?

Visuals are extremely passionate and inspire others to care about the things they care about. But in moments of conflict, their emotional interpretation of the facts can overshadow what is actually occurring, undermining their ability to empathize with their partner. They can stare you down and insist that it’s their way or no way.

Kinesthetics are generous, compassionate, and accepting of other people. But their caring nature pulls them in too many directions. They try to meet others’ needs at the expense of their own, which can cause mounting disharmony and resentment. During a disagreement, they can seem to shrivel within themselves and might lose all ability to speak or articulate their needs.

Digitals are rational and principled and have a gift for quickly understanding complex situations. But they can become closed to others’ perspectives and feelings. Try as you might, you cannot make them understand how you feel because they are not feeling; they are reasoning.

Tonals have a gift for understanding others and their dilemmas. But during moments of conflict, their ability to read between the lines can shift into hearing what was never said, felt, or thought. They can easily go off on a tangent of futility and heartbreak that you never intended.

For example, Rafe and Esther adore one another. They seem to function by telepathic empathy; everyone can see that. But when one of them gets stressed and they fall into conflict, they morph into strangers who can’t connect at all. As the temperature escalates, so does their inability to comprehend the other. That’s because of the differences in their Energetic Stress Styles.

Rafe is Tonal. Esther is Digital. The minute they start to disagree, they shift into distinctive energy habits that determine exactly how they will each behave. And like most of us, they’ve hooked up with someone who has a different style. Consequently, as our conflicts deepen, so do our differences.

When Rafe and Esther argue, she’ll start collecting “facts” in her closed “digital” world, ticking off all the things Rafe needs to recognize about the situation. Rafe, meanwhile, starts interpreting the emotional “tones” between the lines, thinking he’s heard that she’s lost all feeling for him and wants a divorce. He is so wrong, and so is she.

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These are not just psychological differences.

While these may seem like psychological differences, they run much deeper. They are reflected in the ways your body processes the energies of emotion. When you’re upset, this energy accumulates in your eyes if you are visual, in your heart if you are kinesthetic, around your head if you are digital, or around your ears and solar plexus if you are tonal.

Your style is inborn and, try as you might to make your partner be more like you, it’s not gonna happen. Nor should it. The same differences in energies that can lead to conflict can also keep a vibrant positive charge in your relationship. It depends on what you do with these differences.

Here are five ways to use the knowledge of your energetic stress styles to work out conflict before it gets out of hand.

1. Next time things get heated, think about the fact that the person across the table might not be processing the situation the same way you are. That understanding alone can make a huge difference in how quickly the two of you settle down and connect again.

2. Take the time to learn about each other’s stress style on a calm day, long before you ever need to know. Learn the benefits and strengths as well as the drawbacks of each style.

3. Talk over what you’ve discovered and make plans together for what you’ll do if and when you come to the place Rafe and Esther reached: where your dearest love suddenly seems a totally unbalanced stranger. Create in advance a stress-relieving strategy that suits each of you individually.

4. When the conversation gets out of control, step back immediately and implement the strategy you planned for calming yourself. Stop all conversation, and try to catch and calm the stress you feel individually before you say and do things you’ll regret. You can’t reach each other while you're in this state anyway.

5. When you do reconnect, be sure to take time as a couple to celebrate your success at conquering your differences and improving your life together!

Soon you’ll learn how to easily shake off any bizarre stress patterns and rediscover the connection you felt with your partner when you first met.

Related reads:

You’ll find many more tips on how to identify, and benefit from the strengths of each Energetic Stress Style — and much else — in our newest book, The Energies of Love: Keys to a Fulfilling Partnership.

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