Why is it such a struggle to keep our relationships stress-free? The answers to this (very common) question are all tangled up together. They're also too numerous to lay out in their entirety here. But there are some key threads it can pay to stay aware of, and consider next time you find yourself feeling stuck and hurt.
We're time poor
For most of us, modern life seems to generate too much to do and too little time to do it in. When we're time poor, our relationship can become about simply keeping our lives on track rather than building up what we already have. It's a merry-go-round of jobs and chores and eating and sleeping and caring for other people who aren't our spouses. Robbed of the opportunity to sit down and really communicate with the person we want to be closest to, maintaining closeness can get lost in the "to do" list . That includes expressing our needs and listening to our partner's needs.
Of course, feeling like our needs are no longer being considered sets the stage for resentments to edge their way in. And lack of proper communication is fertile soil for that resentment to grow steadily deeper, like the roots of a noxious weed. Poor communication patterns are a leading culprit in relationship problems, and shown by research to predict accurately which relationships won't last.
How many times have your feelings been hurt when you mistakenly expected someone else to know what you thought or felt? When our partner doesn't live up to our expectations, we often feel betrayed and angry and forget that he or she can't actually read our mind. And the less we say about our feelings, the more pressured the situation becomes. Suddenly we find ourselves arguing furiously about trivial things which aren't really about the grief and rage we're feeling at all.
For all its benefits, social media tends not to be not a friend of relationships under stress. Whether it's your partner conversing with a member of the opposite sex on Facebook, their addiction to their smartphone, Instagram images of everyone else having the "perfect" life or a Twitter conversation between your loved one and their ex, this new technology is right there with us in our relationships. Research tells us that the more time you spend on Facebook, the more social media related conflict you'll have in your relationship. That may sound obvious, but such a direct correlation tells you a lot about the power of these very public diaries to erode partnerships.
As we all know, money is never far away from relationship stress, whether it's about not enough, or how our partner spends it, or our different financial goals. Money sits there alongside our values, our childhoods, our assumptions, our hopes and our fears. It's never "just money"- and when you put two people together who think differently about what money means, serious and ongoing conflict can ensue.
Of course, relationship stress will never disappear. Life's just not like that. And anyway, interesting relationships are not usually found to occur between clones. Love often flourishes in incompatibility.
The trick is to find out how prepared you both are to manage the stress and to remove its power to make you unhappy. If you come to an impasse, a warrant of fitness with a reputable relationship expert can save you a lot of unhappiness, whether your partner is the person for you, or ultimately not the right match after all.
Got a broken heart, relationship niggle, infuriating family member, or anything in between? Email your questions here and check back next Friday to hear Jill's wisdom.