When I think of all the Relationships I have helped over the years, one aspect stands out more than any other — the impact of stress! The stress factor often differentiates good, successful relationships from those that need a lot of help.
Why is Stress, or better yet, your Stress level, such a big factor in your important Relationships?
Consider this: How do you react when you are very stressed, as compared to when you are calm and thinking clearly? How does your most common Stress Reaction affect your own important Relationships? Does it make it worse or better?
There are many Stress Reactions that negatively impact a relationship – especially when they are repeated over and over across time.
What do we mean by Stress Reactions? For example, some people who have uncontrollable Stress Reactions attack their Partners with blame and criticism. Others are moody and cold, while radiating cool disdain. Some raise voices in irritability. Body postures go rigid. And facial expressions tell the whole story. A big group simply withdraws, either without explanation, or with an “It’s Your Fault!” attitude. Then there are those who simply get depressed. Each of these personal Stress Reactions also put Stress on the Relationship.
What about you? What is your typical Stress Reaction? And does it cause a Vicious Cycle of negativity in your Relationship?
The Story of Phyllis and Mark
Recently I worked with a couple – let’s call them Phyllis and Mark – who were in the process of ruining their ten-year marriage because of their Vicious Cycle of Stress Reactions.
Here is how it worked: Every time Mark started to worry about losing a major client in their insurance business, he got all worked up. His mind automatically started producing the same reaction he had seen and modeled from his father.
Mark automatically, without thinking it through, starting noticing whatever Phyllis was doing and finding fault in it. It could be how she loaded the dishwasher or that she asked him for help too many times. Finding fault in Phyllis led Mark to automatically start to criticize her. As he dumped on Phyllis, he started feeling calmer inside. Now he could focus back on business and get over his fear of loss. Turns out Mark’s Stress Reducing habit pattern was the same as the way his father had treated his mother during stressful times.
Phyllis and Mark’s relationship might not have been at such high risk if Phyllis had been a saint and simply dismissed Mark’s critical behavior as an automatic pattern he copied from his father. Almost no one is that much of a saint, including Phyllis.
Instead, Phyllis’ reaction was to get internally angry. Instead of showing anger -which Phyllis was never able to do, even as a child – she became withdrawn and depressed. Her withdrawn behavior became part of the Vicious Cycle pattern of Mark, under Stress, criticizing Phyllis, and then Phyllis withdrawing in silent anger.
Because Phyllis felt so unjustly criticized, she continued to behave in ways that gave Mark his target of attack. She wasn’t going to change her patterns for him, when he was being such an unfair attacker. After all – how important is the way the dishwasher is loaded anyway?!
By the time I saw Mark and Phyllis in relationship counseling, they were at war and headed for divorce.
Counseling helped throw cold water on their Vicious Cycle reactions. Mark soon began to notice when he was having a Stress Reaction. He learned to talk about it, rather than attack Phyllis. And Phyllis became capable of telling Mark how she felt when he attacked, rather than simply withdrawing. She also began to consider what changes she was willing to make to please Mark. There were a few that didn’t matter to her too much, while they pleased Mark immensely. She was willing to “give to get.”
What about you?
If your important Relationship has fallen into a Vicious Cycle – such as a pattern of attack and withdraw – and you want some help, please consider our Extraordinary Self® e-course, Extraordinary Relationships and Win/Win Communication. In that course, you will be led to identify what needs to change in Relationship Vicious Cycle. You also will learn how to make those changes, and practice with the tools we provide.
Or, if you feel a need to work on your own Stress Reactions, please consider our Mastering Stress in 7 Steps e-course. Each of our courses includes several tools for stress reduction.
Our e-courses are all about making extraordinary changes in your life. Be your Extraordinary Self! For Course InfoVisit: extraordinaryself.com