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Managing Relationship Stress

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Even in the best relationships, there are days when you’d rather pull out your own hair than interact with your significant other. There is simply no such thing as a completely stress free relationship.

What Causes Relationship Stress?

Relationship stress generally stems from one or both of two major sources: expectations and communication. Sometimes we have expectations that our partner can’t or won’t meet. Sometimes it is inefficient communication or its complete lack that adds straws to the camel’s back. Stress is generated as a result of both.

Like it or not, there are things about our partners that we’d all love to change. And, as much as we’d love to believe we are perfect, there are things about ourselves that our partners would like to change, too. It’s not the realization that we or our partners have a few annoying quirks or a major irritating habit that can doom a relationship but rather the tendency most people have to dwell on these issues.

Acceptance and Adjusting Expectations

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Realizing that we can’t change another person but can only change the way we react to what bothers us is key to avoiding stress buildup in any relationship. It’s important to understand that, even if we express a desire for change, our partner may not share that desire. Expecting our partner to change or behave in a certain way to make us happy is not only unfair to the one we love but is also completely counterproductive to a maintaining a healthy relationship.

Of course, the other side of the coin, a complete lack of expectations, is not healthy either. Balancing love and expectations involves a lot of soul-searching and understanding that our own needs do not always take precedence over the needs of others.

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Communication and Stress

The second primary relationship stressor, communication, is closely tied to expectations. Many times, we can have expectations within a relationship but never communicate them to our partner. For some reason, many people believe that love means never having to voice your needs. The truth is that even the most loving partner is not a mind-reader. If you need something, let your partner know. Don’t stew on the fact that he doesn’t place the same importance on birthdays that you do. And don’t get your boxers in a knot if she schedules dinner with her mother on your weekly poker night.

Men and women communicate very differently. These communication differences can cause a lot of friction, and stress, within any relationship. Women often expect men to automatically know what they need and men often expect women to be able to decode “man speak.” For both men and women, clearly communicating your needs to your partner can give you both a common ground from which to build a great relationship.

Some Books to Get You Started

We’ve compiled a list of a few books to get you started in your quest to decrease the stress and increase the joy in your relationship. As always, individual circumstances and needs will certainly vary, so use these as a springboard for finding information that will be helpful in your specific situation.

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  • The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts” is a book that helps you learn how you and your partner best feel love. When you understand that the way you tend to show love may not be the way your partner best accepts it, you can make small changes that will go a long way toward reducing relationship stress.
  • ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer” is a tutorial for how to keep your cool and get your point across with your partner while staying true to your authentic self. It’s not about only physically screaming but any type of emotional tactic that you might be using which is damaging your relationship, such as being passive aggressive or shutting down.
  • Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” isn’t specifically a relationship book, but it can help you learn how to determine which aspects of your life need “beefing up” to fulfill your needs, so you aren’t putting all of the expectations of your happiness on your relationship.

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