As a life coach I have seen a lot of people with relationship troubles. I always like to remind people that I am not a therapist and I am not here to do couples counseling. But the thing is, relationships effect every aspect of a person’s life. Often, in order for me to be an effective life coach I have to start out by offering people some tips for how to improve their relationships.
It can be incredibly hard to move forward in your career, organize affairs, or even just relax if your relationships are causing you chronic stress. There is evidence to suggest that bad relationships can cause stress that ends up taking a toll on your physical health. You can read more about how relationship stress effects the body here. Usually, there are often two different ways that relationships stress people out. The first is that they don’t have enough close relationships. The second is that the close relationships they do have are full of conflict.
1. Don’t Rush Things
When people are stressed because they don’t have enough close relationships they often want to rush into something. For some people this means searching for a romantic partner when the time isn’t right. For example, I have seen many people quickly get into a relationship in early recovery. For others they go out hunting for new friends and come up empty handed.
The best advice I have is don’t rush things! Allow friendships and romantic relationships to unfold slowly. It seems counter intuitive, but if you take a breath and slow things down usually it will reduce the stress you feel from being lonely.
2. Have Different Groups of Friends
Some people thing that it is about how many friends you have. To some extent this is true, the more friends you have the better off you tend to be. Time.com has a great article that sites some research about how many friends you need in order to get a mental health boost. But the number of friends is just one piece of the puzzle.
In order to reduce relationship related stress you also want to build friendships with different groups of people. Some research has found that people are better off when they have a few close friends, a few more “medium” close friends, and many not so close friends. If you have just one best friend think about maybe making some new friends who you don’t need to be super close with from a different group. Sometimes I call these the work friends.
This might seem really obvious but if your relationships are stressing you out, it might be because you have a hard time saying “I’m sorry”. Repair statements like this are vital to remaining close with other people. Conflict can be an incredibly stressful aspect of relationships. This stress is only made worse when we are unwilling to try to make repairs after the conflict. Next time things are rough try telling someone you’re sorry.
4. Reality Check your Expectations
One thing that really stresses people out is when reality doesn’t match your expectations. People can get hurt when what they want out of a relationship isn’t what they get. If you are someone who is often let down and stressed out I really invite you to reflect on what you expect from a friendship or romantic relationship.
You can even make a list of all the things that you normally expect in a relationship. Write all of these things down and read over them a few times. Then, write another list about what you would be willing to give in a relationship. If these lists don’t match up something is wrong. Often we expect a lot more than we are willing to give. When this is the case it can indicate that we are expecting things that are unreasonable.
5. Focus on What You Can Change
I have seen many people tie themselves into knots trying to “fix” other people. Here is the thing, we really don’t have the ability to change anyone else. The only person we have the ability to change is ourselves. When we try to change others it causes stress because we are trying to do something that is simply not possible. We can tell people what our boundaries are, tell them how they are affecting us, and then we have to step back.
Instead of obsessing about all of the things that you can’t change, focus on the things that you can. This might mean getting into recovery if you need to, setting better boundaries, practicing more self-care, or seeking help from other people. Often when we address these things it has the added benefit of improving our relationships as well.
Life is filled with stress and relationships definitely can add to it. However, there are some simple things that you can do in order to reduce that stress. Allow yourself to try out these few small tips and see if it helps reduce your stress!