When we are in some personal conflict, blaming the other person can be an automatic response. If we really want to know how to deal with stress in a relationship, however, we should heed Walt Kelly’s “Pogo”. We should admit “we have seen the enemy, and he is us.”
Unless you are a hermit, you can’t escape relationships. And every one of them is a two way street. Romantic relationships get the most press, but the relationships with parents, children, co-workers, your boss, and people you encounter every day, can all cause terrific stress in your life.
Dr. Wayne Dyer once said “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” And nowhere is that more true than when our relationships are a trial.
There is nothing we can do to change other people, in spite of how hard we try. But we can change how we think about them, and whatever we consider to be their problem. When we do that, I know from my own experience, the people often change themselves.
How do we initiate this miraculous transformation? We only need two things: gratitude and forgiveness.
Gratitude for all things changes our entire outlook. It gives us rose colored glasses, and draws our attention to blessings we routinely ignore. More importantly, it builds a protective shield around us to protect us from imagined slights, off hand remarks, and stupid things people do unintentionally, to which we choose to take offense.
Gratitude is not an emotion. It is a choice. And we can choose to be grateful for the person we are arguing with just as we can choose to be grateful for anything else. Gratitude throws the stress in our relationship a curve ball. It forces us to reconsider our point of view, and to want the best for the people in our lives.
Forgiveness is our best key to successful relationships. Many years ago I attended an anger management seminar which taught me one of the greatest lessons of my life. They said that most anger results from our inability to forgive other people…for not being just like us.
We may not even like ourselves all that much, but that doesn’t keep us from blaming other people. For millennia families have broken up and wars have been fought because of this inability to forgive people for being different. Different looks, different attitudes, different definitions of the truth.
If you are having trouble dealing with stress in a relationship, first forgive the other person for their differentness. They are not you, and thank goodness for that. When you realize the bitterness you may have held because you are simply on opposite sides of an issue, you can release the stress by simply letting go.
A Course in Miracles proposes that forgiveness is the most important thing we have to learn in life. Maybe even our reason living. And when we forgive we also reap the benefits. “All forgiveness is a gift to yourself.” WB62:2:2.
Jesus taught his followers to pray “forgive us…as we forgive.” It is easy to recite the words, yet not so easy to do the second part, when it comes to living our lives. Still, there is no escaping its essential importance.
Behavioral strategies do help relieve stress in relationships, but only after gratitude and forgiveness are already there. Being honest, learning communication skills, sharing activities, are all effective steps to heal stressful relationships. But if you do them while still harboring hard feelings and resentments, they won’t get you far.
With gratitude and forgiveness, all the actions you take to deal with stress in your relationships will come from purer motives, and bring you far more lasting results.
Let me know what you think about relationship stress. We love to hear from you. And if you find this article helpful, please share on your favorite social media.