This is What Stress Does to Relationships (Visualized)
The easiest way to damage a relationship is to add excessive, unnecessary stress into the equation.
Excessive stress is what changes two people from the infatuated couple of a relationship’s early days into the one looking miserable at the restaurant, staring down at their food, and not talking to each other at all.
Though it’s obviously not possible to move through life without tensions arising within a relationship, it’s of the essence that both partners play an active role in alleviating it — and learning to prevent it in instances when it’s just not necessary.
These two couples manage stress in different ways, and it makes all the difference.
When Liliana and Freddy first met, they had really strong chemistry; both felt butterflies every time they saw one another. After they had moved in and been living together for awhile, they started taking the good things they had in their lives — and each other — for granted.
They had everything they could ever dream of, and yet because of the perspective they chose, it never felt like enough. They found themselves stuck in a hedonic cycle — constantly chasing more, acquiring it, taking it for granted, getting bored, then repeating this cycle over again. This resulted in a lot of stress for them, which manifested in the form of problems in their relationship.
When too many lower level wants begin taking precedence over high priorities, that’s when stress and problems will begin to arise — especially when we’re unconscious of what we actually spend most of our time on. We may even believe that we know what our priorities are, but then spend the majority of our time on completely unrelated things without realizing it.
In a typical week, Freddy does not get nearly enough rest. It’s not because he and Liliana don’t have their survival needs met, but mostly because of the attempt to keep up with the Joneses (competing to acquire fancier possessions and a more prestigious lifestyle than their peers). As a result, their monthly expenses shot through the roof.
To pay for it all, Freddy took on an unfulfilling, high-stress job that sucked away his zest for life. Any time he gets a raise, he increases his spending and has less free time, so he never really gets ahead. Being perpetually exhausted, he no longer makes time to connect with Liliana — and on the rare occasion that they do have time together, his sleeplessness and agony makes him extremely impatient and irritable to be around.
On the other hand, Stella and Randall often make a point to remember to be grateful for what they have. They’ve learned how to separate their needs and wants, and they check in from time to time to make sure they’re generally spending their time and energy on the highest priorities each month.
By living below their means in a more humble fashion, Stella and Randall significantly reduce their stress levels. With ample time for rest, relaxation, and connection, they make time to communicate, learn about one another, and grow together.
They understand that our time is limited, and that each of us only has 24 hours each day, 168 hours each week, and about 720 hours each month.
There’s nothing wrong with having wants, and it can be good to make time for some of them. But in order to spend time pursuing a want, it inevitably needs to take time away from something else. The strength of a relationship is not something fixed, it’s always capable of getting stronger or weaker at any time. To maintain its health, both partners must constantly re-commit to it as a high priority, and learn how to de-prioritize things that, in the long run, are just not as important.