How to Handle Relationship and Friendship Stress

Typically, our work consumes around 40 hours of our week.  That leaves the remaining 16 per day and 48 on the weekend for those in our lives.  If we have a family, they usually get the majority of those hours but often, our relationships outside of family get a share of those too.  Since for many of us, work stress drains us, we look to recharge with relationships outside of work.  These involve both family AND friends.  Since we’ve already looked at family stress as a topic, let’s turn our attention to those other relationships, typically our friendships.

In a perfect world, our friends fill in the gap between work in family in a perfect harmony.  We don’t live in a perfect world though!  If you find your friendships are becoming more of a burden than a benefit, YOU might be the cause!  Here are some suggestions I have on becoming a better friend.

  1. Ask Yourself What You Want out of the Friendship.  Misguided expectation can be a friendship killer.  Do you want your friends to replace a dysfunctional family relationship you have?  Make up for some unfulfilled need you have?  Be that support system you rely on to get through life?  If so, then you’re asking an awful lot.  Certainly having friends to “do” life with is nice, but don’t expect them to play a role they were never intended to play.
  2. Ask Yourself What You Bring to the Friendship.  50/50 is about is fair as you can get in terms of contribution to a friendship.  If you’re not putting at least that much (in terms of time, energy, resources, patience, etc.) then you’re the reason the friendship is stressful.  Do your part.
  3. Ask Yourself WHY you’re bringing less than 50% to the relationship.  Has the friendship run its course?  Are you hanging on to the friendship out of obligation or to some other expectation?  I remember years ago at a high school reunion (before Facebook made those all but obsolete), many of us reconnected and promised to stay in touch.  But after the high of reliving the good old days of high school faded, so did those commitments.  Over the years, most of us simply outgrew our high school friends.  If your stressful friendship has outlived its original purpose, maybe it’s time to communicate this and move on.

Humans are wired for relationships.  We function best when we have them, both family and friendships.  If they aren’t working out, it’s best to look first to our own contribution or lack thereof.  If you want the kinds of friends who don’t interrupt you at inconvenient times, burden you with your baggage, don’t put in as much effort as you do, or take advantage of you, then be sure you’re not doing the same to them.   We can’t control what other do, but we sure as heck can control what we do.  Don’t be the stress that’s causing you the stress.