We’ve all read plenty about relationships gone wrong. The yelling. The volatility. Short tempers. Nasty words. In an unwelcome turn of events recently, I found myself recognizing all the signs. And, unfortunately, I was the one doing all the yelling.
The good news is that it wasn’t the relationship. My boyfriend is funny, cute, and nice to me. The bad news is that after two years together, I had fallen into the trap of taking out my stress on the person closest to me. Anxious to make things right, I sought out strategies for regaining our happy:
Step 1: Apologize. I went with the classic, “I know I’ve been in a funk lately, and I’m sorry I’ve been taking it out on you.” Communication adds closeness, so it’s good to follow with a recap of the real issue, even if it’s as seemingly minor as PMS. If there’s something in your life that you don’t feel like talking about yet (or ever), you can simply confide, “hey, I have something going on that I want to tell you about, but it’s too hard now, so it would really mean a lot to me if you’d be a little extra patient until I’m ready to talk.”
Step 2: Diffuse the stress. Once I realized that my stress was getting the better of me, I turned to exercise – my most effective positive coping mechanism. You can also try turning all that negative energy positive by applying it to a winnable project such as re-organizing your desk or baking a batch of healthy breakfast muffins.
Step 3: Face the beast. While communication and positive coping will help you get mentally grounded and repair any damage to your relationships, you cannot truly end the cycle unless you figure out what’s really bothering you. One of Oprah’s favorite experts, Dr. Martha Beck counsels, “you’ll know you’ve hit upon your real issue when all your irritation with innocent bystanders disappears in a flood of fear, sorrow, or despair. You’ll probably feel helpless about coping with the core dilemma (the root of your problem) — that’s why you displaced your aggression in the first place.” But hang in there. Once you’ve faced the issues, you can start looking for a solution – or for help in finding one. If you’re not sure what’s bothering you or you feel especially emotional, do not hesitate to reach out to a mentor, school counselor, or parent for support. You never have to go through the hard stuff alone.
Step 4: Reconnect. Finally, make an effort to show the other person you still care. Especially when you’re under stress, it’s easy to forget that the little things matter. Add an extra kindness to your day or send a sweet goodnight text.
The bottom line is that it is never healthy to take your stress out on someone else, especially those closest to you. Most likely it will just make you feel worse and more distant, which isn’t healthy for anyone. If you have other strategies that help you stay happy in your relationship through normal life stresses, comment below or tweet us @ShimmerTeen.