So recently I posted a message on Facebook that said: “If a relationship stresses you out, it isn’t a good fit, no matter how much you love the person.” The comment generated some discussion, even debate. Some people really agreed with the statement, feeling that no relationship is worth feeling stressed out for. Others felt that all relationships have stress and it’s important to learn to deal with it. I bring this topic up again because it’s a really, really important one.
How Much Stress is Too Much?
When you’re in a relationship with someone, or even when you’re still in the “dating” stages, there will be times when it will cause stress. Maybe there’s a misunderstanding, maybe there’s actual conflict, or maybe nothing was said, but he or she simply isn’t behaving the way you want him/her to. In other words, you feel stress about the relationship. Then, the question becomes, how much stress is a normal part of dating/relationships, and how much is a bad sign? You don’t want to be the person who runs away at any sign of trouble – otherwise you’ll live a low stress life… alone. But you also don’t want to be the person who says, “Hey, relationships are hard, but it’s worth it! I don’t mind the high blood pressure or the vomiting, really!”
Dating and Divorce
This question is important in any relationship. But it becomes a huge issue when dating someone who is divorced, or going through a divorce. These situations can be far more stressful because of the inherent stress that comes with a divorce, or the baggage that can be present after it’s over. Not always the case, but often a problem. In fact, what even spurred me to put that post on Facebook was client I had who was dating a divorcing man. The relationship had literally made her sick at one point, and had generated a significant amount of anger and resentment. If you knew the particulars, you’d understand why. Yet, she still wanted to try.
Putting Your Foot Down
How much stress you can tolerate in a relationship depends, to some extent, on your temperament. However, here are a few guidelines I will offer to help you know when stress is too much.
What stage are you in? The newer the relationship, the less stress you should tolerate. The early stages should be nearly stress free. Once the relationship gets serious, conflicts are bound to happen, but still not all that often. In long term gigs, occasional conflict is normal.
How often? Once the relationship gets serious, how often does it feel stressful? Once in a while, when there’s a bad day or misunderstanding, or on a regular basis?
How stressful? When stress does occur, is it just uncomfortable until it passes, or does it cause bad dreams, anxiety, worry, depression, or physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches? Minor stress or discomfort is normal, but significant worry or physical symptoms are bad signs.
Which relationships? When you experience the above, is it only in this relationship, certain relationships you’ve had, or in all of them? If it’s just this relationship or certain ones, it may be a bad match. But if this always happens to you, it may be time to re-evaluate how you handle stress.
Negative feelings? How often do you feel anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, sadness, disappointment? In the heat of conflict and just after, these might come up. But if they’re common feelings in a relationship, that’s not a good sign. Relationships should be a place to feel safe, not tormented.
In the end, a relationship should never make you feel like crap. If it does, it’s a strong sign the compatibility is poor. It doesn’t matter how much you love one another – love is not enough to repair poor compatibility. When conflict occurs, do your best to learn from it. But if your best efforts to handle it aren’t enough, it might be time to jump ship.
Feel free to comment, as usual! How do you know when a relationship becomes TOO stressful? What are the signs?