Life is stressful. After a rough day, many of us want to go home and forget about work. We want to spend a few minutes venting to an empathic partner and transition to our lives at home. It sounds simple enough, but it’s an area where couples often go astray. It’s frustrating when you go to your partner for support and end up feeling invalidated or criticized. It’s a missed opportunity for connection and support. If handled poorly, the transition from work to home can lead to disconnect. Let’s talk about why so many couples go astray here.

Even in the best of relationships, people can fall into the trap of listening to the blow-by-blow of their partner’s day and then unintentionally start a fight by telling their partner how they should handle the problem when they go back to work the next day. Or worse, they tell their partner how they should have handled the situation. Those comments might come from a place of care and protection, but it’s the wrong move. Nobody wants advice at the end of the day; they simply want an ear. They want to be heard and understood, nothing more.

The solution is simple. Listen to your partner’s venting and reflect their emotion on your face. If they are angry about an interaction at work, show anger or annoyance on your face. You can shake your head or roll your eyes for emphasis. When your partner is done sharing the annoyances from work, you can say, “Rough day! You deserve a relaxing night.” That’s often all it takes to complete the transition to home with a sense of connection. Don’t complicate the transition by trying to solve a problem you weren’t asked to solve. If your partner relays a funny story or work accomplishment, mirror that emotion on your face. Add a “Well done!” or “How funny!” if you are so inclined, but words are often unnecessary.

Let us share a few exceptions here. Some people need ten or fifteen minutes to themselves when they get home before interacting. They might want to change clothes or grab a bite to eat before conversing. Easily accommodated if that information is shared calmly before any friction occurs. We also need to acknowledge that some work issues are going to require more than five minutes, and people sometimes want input and advice from their partners. Completely understandable. Those are legitimate exceptions partners should respect. Our focus here is on the more typical daily transitions.

You might have to train your partner by asking them to simply listen and acknowledge feelings without advice or solutions. It is each of our responsibility to share with our partner what we need, they cannot read our mind. Have a conversation about how you want to transition from work to home. These transitions can be less than five minutes and completely change the tone of the house.