Research for my just released new book, Optimal Stress: Living in Your Best Stress Zone (John Wiley & Sons) allowed me to ask very high performing working women to describe "...three of the most stressful situations in your life." Everyday women with everyday stressors. Not surprisingly relationship issues were among the most commonly cited causes of stress.
Here are just a sample of women's stories...in their own words....
"...I found out that my husband of more than 12 years had had an intermittent, but ongoing affair (for 7 years!) with a woman who was known to me. This situation was also known to a number of my friends, but no one had told me anything about it and, in fact, some had helped sustained the affair through invitations to parties, etc. when all of us would be present. I had had suspicions for years, but no confirmation. I was shaken to my core."
"...I’m 32 years old...my hours "suck" . . . my work is primarily west-coast based and as a result I come in a bit later and am often in the office 3+ hours later than my co-workers, which leaves me little time to have much of a social life during the week. In addition, Fridays are usually my worst day of the week with some crisis that needs immediate attention, so I can never make plans on a Friday night . . . leaving me with the weekends (sort of . . . in the first year and half here I worked the weekends, too). I uprooted and moved across country for this job leaving my friends and family behind. I only knew a few people (from school) living in the area, but they are all married with kids and living in the suburbs so I never see them. I feel isolated and alone."
"I need to lose 30 pounds and it is stressing me big time...what’s more is that my husband doesn't seem to care..."
"The most stressful time in my life was when my son died at age 17. He fell asleep driving and hit a tree only one half miles from home. He was the oldest of my children. My husband has never forgiven me. He has tried. I gave my son permission to go out that night. "
"...My husband and I dealt with three years of infertility before we finally got pregnant with my son. And then 1.5 more years before we were able to achieve a pregnancy with my daughter. This is by far the most stressful situation that I have dealt with in my life."
"...My in-law's role in my life post children and my husband's resulting handling of those situations - I have boundary issues w/my in-laws, they don't partner with me as a mother, but make their own decisions on what they think is best for my children. Although he may agree with my views, my husband (conflict avoider) will refuse to sit w/his folks and discuss this as a family..."
"...My husband was having an affair while I was working on a promotion at work. I guess the exchange was career advancement at the loss of my marriage. Then it was difficult to stay focused on my work and the new responsibilities that I had taken on knowing that the man I had spent 9 years with was wrapped in the arms of his assistant. I thought I would lose my mind. Work was a curse and a blessing."
"...I make really decent money but find that financially I’m out of control. I use money like food, a way to quiet my insides, but both of these methods have long term negative impacts on my relationship with my husband. I feel trapped because I shouldn't spend money like I do...but continue to do it anyway."
"...My intimate relationship with my husband suffered greatly after the birth of our son. He was our first and was born with a birth defect that made breast feeding difficult. I felt that my husband was not very supportive of my efforts to try to breast feed him, so I "punished" him by being "romantically difficult." He noticed and we had a lot of stress during our intimate moments..."
"...Divorce, In October, after over a year of my initiating this action, I was granted a divorce. This was an emotionally draining, legally eye opening experience that took me many years to complete...but it was worth it!"
"...Getting married at age 45, relocating and working on high level projects for the firm was an incredible adjustment for me past 2 years. Balancing a lot of change and needing to do well in all is stressful."
"..Coming off of maternity leave right into busy season, which included a brand new client in an industry that was new to me as well as an hour commute. I was stressed trying to learn how to get up to speed on a new client and balance being tired from having a young baby."
To paraphrase my grandmother, Tiger and Elin have made a very expensive bed that now must be reckoned with. It would appear mistakes have been made. And their children are potential collateral damage. Only they know the realities of their situation. They need time and space to recover.
My question for you. Any stress related to your personal relationship? This may be a good time for self reflection and relationship repair or maintenance. The holidays can definitely be the 'best of times and the worst of times' when it comes to relationships.
Compassion, empathy, truth telling, and forgiveness are at the core of solutions to many relationship issues. But also ‘mind-shifting’—that is learning how to decrease drama, how to change your internal playlist and other strategies for emotional integrity are critical for surviving and being whole. Get kids support early.
As a speaker and coach, I help women identify, transform harmful reactions into healthy responses to inevitable life stressors—including relationship issues. Have a vision. Know your beliefs and values. You deserve to be loved. Surround yourself with people who care. Make choices and take action on controllable aspects of your life. Only you can decide what to change. Also learn to redirect—not suppress—thoughts and feelings around situations you can’t change.
The good news is, life is a continuous experiment. If at first you don't succeed. Try something new.
Let's get a conversation going about stress and personal relationships.
- Do you have a story to share about stress related to a personal relationship in your non work life?
- Can you share a story about how you survived a stressful personal relationship situation?
- Share a solution.
- Make a comment.
Carol J. Scott, MD
Author: Optimal Stress: Living in Your BestStress Zone (Wiley)