Stress affects Relationships
Many relationship problems can be caused, at least partially, by stress. When people are in a relationship they interact with a degree of frequency.
Relationships can be: partners, husbands and wives, a family living together, work colleagues, team mates playing sport or other relationships. In any of these relationships, the people involved are part of each other’s lives. If a negative event or situation arises, it can be difficult to escape.
If you are playing a friendly game of football on a Saturday afternoon, but you have had a terrible week at work, someone tackles you and you get angry at them. That person may be your friend and you are not really angry at them, you are angry because you have had a stressful week, but you bring your stress to the football game.
If you argue with a stranger, such as a shopkeeper, you may never see that person again; you may choose not to return to that shop. However, if you argue with a family member, a work mate, a partner, it can be much harder to avoid them as you are likely to have to see them again fairly soon.
Being unable to escape from relationship stress can easily lead to a stress spiral. Both parties may find it hard not to worry about the situation when they are not communicating. And as long as they are not communicating, their thoughts are likely to take different paths; as their thinking becomes more divergent, their stress will increase.
Ellen and Terry have an argument. He wanted to go out for a meal and a drink. She said no. He was angry and went to bed in a mood. He took a bottle of whiskey with him and drank too much. So he woke up with a hangover and in a bad mood. He went to work without speaking to Ellen. Terry thinks that Ellen is refusing to have fun and enjoy herself, so he is angry with her. Ellen is angry because she thinks Terry spends too much money. They were struggling to pay some bills that week and Ellen didn’t want to waste the money on going out. She thought it was more important to pay the bills, but she did not tell Terry about this. If Ellen had explained in the first place why she did not want to go out, Terry would have been given the opportunity to listen to her and perhaps they could jointly come up with a way to solve the lack of money, but as she did not tell him, he was unable to help, so their communication reduced and became more negative.
Communication is a two way street – giving and receiving. If we do not communicate effectively, an issue can start out small, but develop into endless criticism and arguments. This can also lead to physical and emotional abuse, relationship crises, such as affairs and even illness.
If Ellen didn’t discuss the issues with Terry, he may continue to think she is being boring and a killjoy. She may continue to think that Terry is being selfish and not helping her with their finances. This could lead to more serious arguments and a lack of communication between the couple.
Relationship problems commonly start with poor communication and a lack of empathy. The solution, more often than not, involves restoring communication and increasing empathy.
When we manage stress better, we minimize problems –and life becomes better
Everyone needs to become a stress manager – at some level.