Relationship stress is ranked the third highest cause of stress for people aged 18-33.
Unsurprisingly work and money come in at numbers one and two.
59% of young people find their relationships a source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association.
The thing with work and money though is that it is a problem that doesn't go away. You have to put food on the table and a roof over your head, so you find a way to deal with the stress.
With relationships, you may want one, but you don't need one. If a relationship gets too stressful you can just end it. On one hand this is convenient, everyone wishes they could break up with their work and money stress. But in the long term it gets you nowhere.
Eventually you realize that you can't just keep breaking things off when it gets too hard. You actually have to confront the relationship stress to effectively manage it.
This means reducing the impact of stress caused by the relationship. It also means reducing the impact of outside stress on the relationship. External problems causing stress can have a negative effect on how you two relate.
How To Overcome Relationship Stress
1. Reduce Expectations Of Yourself And Your Girl
It's easy to build up how awesome you want your relationship to be in your mind. She will be perfect, you will be awesome and everything is just going to wonderful all the time. The reality is never quite like that and it can be a little bit deflating. When the rose tinted glasses wear off, the difficult task of establishing a long term relationship begins. The fact that your high expectations are not being met can cause tension and stress.
The easiest solution is just to take the pressure off. You don't have to be perfect and neither does your girl. She might be outstanding but there is no way she can be perfect in every single way.
If you accept that and accept that relationships will have their natural ups and downs, then it takes the pressure off.
2. Communicate Where You Stand
When you are moving from the dating phase to the solid relationship phase, a lot of the stress comes from trying to work out what your girl is thinking. You wonder whether the relationship is going to continue. You might be head over heels for her, but you haven't made a serious commitment yet. You don't know where the relationship stands.
You can't be too over the top and demand the deep and meaningful "where do we stand conversation" every couple of weeks. But now and again it helps to reaffirm the relationship and check out how each other is feeling about it. You can check in about deal breakers and gain confidence that things are moving forward.
If you have been in the relationship for some time and it is in the solid and steady phase it also helps to check in from time to time. Have a serious conversation about where things are at.
3. Accept That There Will Be Problems
One cause of relationship stress is when small conflicts mean you feel threatened that the relationship might end. If your partner causes you to feel this way as a way of emotional blackmail it should be a huge red flag. But normal conflict should not make you feel stressed that your relationship is suddenly going belly up.
You have to accept that the relationship is bigger than the individual problems within it. That its foundations are strong enough to withstand a little bit of stormy weather.
4. Be Quick To Apologise And Don't Hold A Grudge
Yes there will be conflicts, but there shouldn't be ongoing unresolved tensions that gnaw away at each of you over a long period of time. Have the fight when you need to and don't shy away from conflict if it is necessary. But make sure you always apologize and that no grudges are kept. That will reduce stress as you will always be able to find your way back to an equilibrium.
5. Vent Rather Than Suppress
If you suppress your frustrations they will wear away at you. You will get angry and annoyed and the space between you in your relationship will be poisoned. It may not be something you like to do, but it is much better to vent and air you frustrations than to hide them. Because they don't go away, they just simmer away, building up and later they will explode.
6. Avoid Criticism Or Blame
Being in a relationship means being part of a team. Teammates work together for the good of the team, they shouldn't be looking to push each other down. One way to build resentment and create relationship stress is to blame and criticize.
Avoid this at all costs to keep a positive space between the two of you.
7. Make Time For Each Other
Tensions can arise because you both have been too busy to spend quality time together. If you proactively make quality time together, such as having a regular date night, it prevents this kind of stress and tension.
Use that time to listen to how each other is feeling and to get to know each other a little bit better. If you have been having problems then understanding where each other is coming from can help ease the situation.
8. Pull Your Weight Around The House
One of the simplest ways to cause stress in a relationship is for one partner to not pull their weight when it comes to cooking, cleaning and other chores. The stereotype is that it is always guys who fail in this department. I'm not convinced this is true, as I am a bit of a clean freak and I know plenty of sloppy women. But if this is you then pick up your game to prevent this easy source of stress.
9. Talk Openly About Sex
Frustration, tension and stress can emerge if one partner is not getting their needs met in the bedroom. In a long term relationship sex is a constantly evolving experience. It requires dedicated and open communication. It's far too easy to slip into routine and habit, which might be causing a problem. Resolve this one with regular chats about how things are going in the bedroom.
10. Keep Up Your Social Networks
A lot of young men in their first serious relationship dive in way too deep. They spend all their spare time with their girl and neglect their family and friends. This all seems romantic at first but can quickly turn tragic as you lose your network . Everyone laughs at what a whipped sucker you have become.
You may think you are being a wonderful boyfriend. But even you will start to resent the fact that your girlfriend is taking up all your time. This happened to me in my first relationship. Without consciously realizing it I had cut out all my friends. My girlfriend didn't demand this but I just did it anyway. In the end it caused serious stress and tension as i resented her for it yet she hadn't asked it of me.
It's much healthier to keep your girl as in important part, but not the only part of your life. Stay in touch with family and friends.
11. Be An Optimist
Relationship stress, like any other stress, has a tendency of causing people to become pessimistic. That's understandable and sometimes it can feel like the stress will never go away.
But if you are optimistic about overcoming any tension then you are much more likely to actually do so. In fact research supports the idea that optimists experience better quality relationships.
12. Accept Her Way Of Dealing With Stress
Sometimes the stress itself becomes less important than the frustration one person has about how that stress is handled.
We all have a bias towards our own way of handling things. When we see people coping in what seems a strange way to us, it can make us angry or frustrated. We feel they are not doing enough to cope.
It happens to me all the time. I deal with stress by doing things. My girlfriend deals with stress by doing nothing. She tells me I need to slow down, I tell her she needs to stop vegging out.
We then end up fighting about the best way to deal with our problems. It would be better to give each other the space to work through things in a way that works for each of us.
The best thing you can do is to refrain from criticizing or trying to impose your methods. Just accept her way of coping with things.
13. Don't Bring Outside Stress In
Relationships can be stressful enough without bringing external stress in. Stress from work or family needs to stay where it came from. Of course having a partner means you have someone to talk about your problems with, but there needs to be a limit. Don't dump all your stress on your partner and don't let her dump all her stress on you.
If work is causing her problems she needs to vent to her boss or her colleagues. It's unhealthy to be a dumping ground on a regular basis from problems in her life that have nothing to do with you.
14. Be Empathetic But Don't Give Advice Unless It's Asked For
If you do let her have a moan about some outside stressor, listen empathetically without offering a solution or advice. Often women just want someone to talk to. Men want to find solutions to problems. If you start offering solutions she will accuse you of not listening and not caring. Your listening ear and shoulder to cry on will suddenly cause a flare up between the two of you.
Just listen, because that's all she wants unless she specifically asks for a solution.
15. Take Care Of Yourself So You Can Take Care Of Each Other
I love this quote, because it beautifully expresses the idea that we need to take personal responsibility for our own wellbeing. We cannot rely on the other to provide it.
A significant cause of stress in a relationship is when one partner leans too heavily on the other. Eventually this gets to the point where they can no longer bear the weight. Don't do that to your girl and don't let her do that to you.
Stress in relationships is natural and unavoidable. Yet it is possible to deal with it well and move beyond it or deal with it poorly and let it take a heavy toll.
Be proactive about managing stress and communicate a lot. Don't avoid conflict when it is necessary to clear the air.
Be a good person and a good man so you can be a good partner.
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