So much of the stress in our lives is caused by relationship challenges that we either have not acknowledged to ourselves, or that we have not acknowledged to others. This is true for all relationships, whether it’s with a spouse, a friend, an aging parent, or an adult child. We fall into the trap of expecting others to read our minds, or believing that everyone has the same expectations we do. This leads to huge amounts of underlying frustration, resentment, and stress that seep into all areas of our lives.
The worst part is that when we’re frustrated, angry, and resentful, we assume the worst of the people in our lives, rather than the best. That means when a challenge arises that we actually recognize as stressful, we are disinclined to give people the benefit of the doubt. We start to believe they are stressing us out on purpose, which escalates our frustration and resentment even further, so it’s a tough cycle to get out of!
The most important way to eliminate the hidden stress in any relationship is open communication. We really do need to tell people how we feel, and address minor snags in relationships before they blow up into huge problems that become so common we don’t even recognize they’re there – even though they cause us stress daily. The challenge is that we don’t necessarily know how to have those tough conversations. That’s why one of the most rewarding messages I get from families who have used my book as a guide is that it helped them get those tough conversations started – and make them productive. I’ve had stressed-out parents (and step-parents) tell me the book has saved their marriages, since they’re finally able to really talk about how they’re feeling, and start building an atmosphere of open communication.
May this new year bring you a new lease on all the difficult relationships in your life. Remember: Honesty may be difficult, but if you are clear, level-headed, fair, and reasonable, your openness will clear the path for much less stressful relationships all year long.
All the best to you and your family in 2014!