Eliminating Relationship Stress

With Valentine’s Day now long gone, how is your relationship going? Did you capture the essence of February 14th and are you still carrying it forward? Or has the magic of Valentine’s Day turned into a distant memory as day to day life returns, bringing stress with it?

Regardless of how high or low a priority your relationship is to you, it’s essential to know how to resolve relationship stress. This is because stress from your relationship can seep into other areas of your life like rising floodwater. I know far too many people whose business or career has taken a beating soon after their relationship has fallen apart.

Conversely, if you resolve stress in your relationship, your relationship can become a safe harbor, a shelter from the storms of stress. It can strengthen you and reenergize you to outdo any challenge which lies before you.

And if you aren’t currently in a relationship, how good would it be to know how to stop relationship stress before it starts in the first place?

So let’s look a major cause of relationship stress and how it can be resolved.

Projected Expectations and Ideals

Everyone projects some form of expectation on their relationship (and their partner). We want our relationship to be a certain way, and we expect it to be that way. Whether it is that we want our partner to be fun, romantic, not ask too many questions, help with raising kids, whatever it is, we all have expectations.

And this can be a good thing. After all, your expectations are part of the reason you were attracted to your partner in the first place. They fulfilled your expectations and ideals. You felt happy when you were with them.

At the same time, projected ideals can cause mountains of stress so daunting that you think cannot even begin to climb them.

This stress is partially because of the way most people communicate when their expectations are not met. Think about this: if you’ve always wanted your man to be caring and thoughtful, and do kind things for you out of his own volition, but he never does, you may begin to feel dejected and unimportant to him. You may make statements like “You never do nice things for me anymore.” Or “Why don’t you notice me anymore?”

Or, if you’ve always wanted your lady to be trusting and admiring of you, and really notice all the important things you do, but she never does, you might not feel motivated to bother trying anymore. You might become defensive when she tells you how to do things her way, (as if your way isn’t good enough?) and become irritated and tell her to do it herself. You might ask “Why can’t you just let me do it this way? Why do you have to tell me what to do?”

Statements like these can lead to arguments, which lead to even bigger arguments, and long term resentment. Plus the initial frustration is never fun in the first place. It all equals stress.

The second reason why expectations can cause stress is because sometimes our expectations are simply unrealistic. These lofty ideals mean that no matter what your partner does, you will never feel satisfied. Often these expectations are based on illusions. They can be based on comparisons with others, such as parents, friend’s partners, or celebrities.

One of my clients felt frustrated with her husband because he wasn’t “bringing home the bacon” enough to her liking: he wasn’t doing well enough financially compared to what she wanted. She felt frustrated and let down by his lack of effort in her eyes. She wanted him to do whatever it took to progress faster.

To her credit, he wasn’t on a large income. Despite this he was saving well just like her parents did when they were young. And they were reaching specific financial goals faster than others the same age.

It was only after discussion that she realized she was comparing her husband’s financial progress in his twenties, to the financial situation her parents were in during their late fifties.

If she kept expecting him to live up to this unrealistic ideal, she would be unhappy for the next 30 years!

Resolving Unrealistic Expectations

The first step to resolving unrealistic expectations is recognition. Often, just recognizing that your expectation is based off a comparison or illusion will help diffuse some of the associated stress.

Look within and ask yourself: “What is it I really want in this situation?” “Why do I want that?” “Am I comparing my partner or our relationship to anyone else?” “Do I wish my partner was more like someone else in this area?” “At what point will I be happy with my partner (in this area) and is it physically possible for them to achieve that now, or will it take time?”

Secondly, evaluate what is most important to you about your relationship. If your partner lives up to this expectation, will it support your highest priorities, or detract from them? If it will detract from your highest priorities, and you are comparing your partner to someone else, then it could be time to adjust your expectations.

Regardless of whether your expectation is unrealistic or legitimate, always communicate calmly. Don’t allow the frustration of the moment to cause future stress down the track. Wait until a calm time to discuss the situation, and always keep it kind.



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