Perhaps you’re thinking: “Just three, Scott?”
Of course there are dozens more, but I believe these three central and often overlooked reasons are what most often cause stress in our relationships.
1. You can’t control other people.
Try as you might—and an untold number of my clients do—you cannot control another person.
You can manipulate, cajole, flatter, bluff, finagle, delude, scheme, fight, or fly, but these are all vain attempts at controlling another person.
And unless we’re mature adults, what we can’t control stresses us out.
2. You have unrealistic expectations.
Some couples don’t expect to fight after they get married.
Some parents don’t expect troublesome issues to arise when their kids become teenagers.
Some employees are always sure the new boss will be better than the last.
Much of our stress arises from unrealistic expectations. If we expect to encounter conflict in most of our relationships at one point or another, we can better prepare ourselves to handle that conflict in a constructive, meaningful, and mature way.
3. You listen more to the stories you tell yourself.
This combines the first two reasons for stress in our lives. When you listen to the made-up stories you tell yourself about other people (which generally aren’t based on facts or the fullest perspective you can get), you feel like you can control them and can place your own expectations on them.
After all, if you’re the director of the movie in your mind with full control of all characters “on stage,” those actors will do your bidding.
But once you try to play out your script in the real world and the other person doesn’t do anything like you’d planned, well, how stressful is that?
Now that we have a little deeper understanding of what really causes stress in our lives, next week we’ll look at how to lessen that stress.