Maintaining Relationships in Stressful Times

Maintaining Relationships in Stressful Times

Are you going through a tough time in your life right now? For the past year, I have been. It is rough getting a new business going. I wanted to share a few things that I have learned during this time regarding relationships.

When people get really stressed out they typically do one or two things: 1) withdraw or 2) lash out in anger. Both are very destructive to relationships.

The ones who love you

What I find, especially with men, is that they will take out their anger, frustration or withdraw from the very ones who love and care for them the most. Instead of getting support from your spouse, a person unleashes their anger or withdraws from the very person who can help them the most. What an odd and illogical reaction, but all so true.

Putting on an act at work

People will put on a straight face and act normal during the work hours then blow up at home. The irrational reasoning behind this is that "I can dump anything on my family for they have to love me." Actually, by dumping on your family, you are showing that you don't love them. You are destroying the very relationships you need the most.

The other big relationship buster is blaming the other person. This typically results from pride. It is easier to point the finger at the other person's faults and tell them all their inadequacies versus admitting your own. "A good offense is a great defense." Sadly, that does not work in a relationship; it destroys the relationship.

Building relationships

In times of stress you can actually enhance, strengthen and broaden your relationships. Instead of seeing your spouse or family as the punching bag, share your stresses (in a cordial way) and ask them to be sensitive to your problems. Ask them to support you. Ask them to be on your team and you treat them as teammates, not the opposition. Ask them to pray for you. Even pray together as a family. Use the opportunity to strengthen the family unit. Mom or Dad don't have to always appear as they are superman/woman. Be human, show that you are hurting.

If there is confrontation, ask a question, don't just blurt out a response. Pause, listen,and rephrase what they are saying. Ask "Why did you say that?" Take 2-3 deep breaths. Many times just hearing the person out and rephrasing what they said so that they know you heard them is ALL they wanted. No answer is required. Most people want to be heard first, understood second. That is 80% of the problem resolution.

Get your family around you

During my tough time, I have confided in my wife even more. She has learned to ask questions, instead of giving solutions, as I am learning to do. I have asked my girls to pray for resolution to the situations. I have engaged my family as my team instead of taking the stress out on them. Even though times are tough related to work, our family is doing great.

This is a choice. The choice is that you have to decide that you value your relationships more than anything else. You have to DECIDE that relationships are more important and that you will change your behavior to maintain them.

You Can't Change Others

In times of stress, we always want the other person to change and work toward having them change. The truth is that you can't change anyone except yourself. You need to focus your energy on changing yourself versus changing them. What is unique and I find it true in my life, when you focus on changing yourself, that enables other people to change. Changing yourself takes the pressure off the other person (you placing pressure on them) freeing them up to examine their life and work on change.

When we try to force change on another, the plan just backfires. They see our own faults, dig their heals in and resist. But, if you work on yourself (being self-controlled, controlling your temper, forgiving others, listening, etc.) that other person sees how you are changing and then is more open to changing themselves.

A few last tips to help you deal with stress.

1) Put relationships above issues. Make relationships a priority over issues. Typically, without thinking, just the opposite happens. People will kill a relationship just to prove they are right or to relieve their pain. (This behavior tells the other person that they are not important.)

2) Listening builds relationships so remind yourself - You are listening to maintain relationship, not to be prove yourself right.

3) Practice self control - in anger, in spending, in speaking. If you just want to withdraw, force yourself to spend 20 minutes with your spouse such as going for a walk together or playing with your kids, then go read or watch TV.

4) Be humble - You don't have to get your 2 cents in during every conversation. You don't have to prove you are right or even present your side.

5) Ask forgiveness when you screw up. Asking forgiveness is not just saying "I'm sorry" but it is saying "I was wrong; will you forgive me for...(whatever you did.) It is also acknowledging that the other person was hurt. Asking forgiveness is about healing the relationship. It is about the other person, not you.

So, in times of stress you can ruin your relationships or you can use the opportunity to build relationships. The real issue comes down to who is more important, you or the other person(s)? Do you care for others or just about yourself? Are you so full of pride that you can't change or are you willing to change for the sake of others?

Most of the time the solution lies right in our hands, but we blame others. Choose to be positive and build relationships. Start today!


Philippians 2:1-4 "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."

I have heard people say and I have said this "It is too hard to change. I know what I am to do but I just can't seem to do it. I keep screwing up!"

The truth is that to maintain relationships and putting others first is REALLY hard. It is not our natural nature to do so. We think of ourselves first and everyone else second.

Paul did not write this with the idea that you would be able to change on your own. His first premise is that you are united in Christ, through Christ you can change. It is the power of Christ working in you that truly brings about change (in all areas of our life.)

Too many times I have identified that I need to change and work hard to change on my own effort. I either do change and then become prideful or can't change and become discouraged. I started off wrong. I should first ASK God to change me. Ask Him to enable my spirit to change and then use God's word and others to work in my life to bring about change. Being teachable is the first step to change.

Ask God to help you deal with stress. Ask God to enable you to control your temper, to be a better listener, to love your spouse even when he/she does not deserve to be loved. Ask God to help you listen to your children and to be patient with them.

Acknowledge your weakness, seek help, believe that God will give you the strength needed and then work to change. The central issue is that God needs to be ruler of your life, not you, then He can change you for the better.

Have a blessed week!


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