Welcome to Day 12 of HuffPost Healthy Living's 14-Day Stress-Less Challenge! In honor of National Stress Awareness Month, our goal is to use these two weeks to focus on becoming less stressed and more calm. Today's expert is Dr. Lloyd Sederer, M.D., HuffPost's mental health editor and author of "The Family Guide To Mental Health Care," who will be explaining why friendships and romantic relationships can be a source of stress -- and what you can do about it. Read through today's challenge, then tell us -- either in the comments, on Facebook or @HealthyLiving -- how it's going. Just joining us? Catch up on what you've missed here and sign up to receive newsletters for the rest of the challenge here.
Earlier this week, HuffPost's mental health editor Dr. Lloyd Sederer, M.D., talked about specific stressors in family relationships, including use of money, the importance of making priorities known, and the blending of differences. But let's look now at things that can strain one-on-one relationships: We're talking about your relationship with your best friend, or your relationship with a significant other or spouse.
For romantic relationships in particular, sex, of course, can be a big stressor -- namely because once you're in a longer-term, committed relationship, sex becomes more about the intimacy than about the passion, Sederer says. "Unless likes, dislikes, when, [and] mutuality are considered and attended to, then sex goes out the window," he says. "Usually within six months, sex as passion becomes sex as intimacy -- and intimacy depends on good feelings, comfort, willingness and mutuality."
And moving beyond sex, a committed relationship is all about the joining of two lives -- and that includes each other's family and friends, which can be another source of stress. When do you spend time with "your" friends, versus "my" friends? Who are "our" friends? Figuring out how to allocate time with different people in your lives can be difficult to navigate. And that point leads to time, which is perhaps one of the biggest stressors in any relationship, whether it's platonic or romantic. Common sources of stress include balancing "time for each other, for being together, to do things or not to do things but [to] be in each other's presence," Sederer says. Conflicts between these desires -- as well as competing with the ever-present phone or tablet! -- can lead to stress in a relationship. Sederer provides some helpful tips for quelling these common tension points:
1. Talk about sex. Really. Sederer recommends finding a quiet moment -- as well as the daring -- to talk about wants and needs. It takes "emotional strength based on being committed to making the relationship work," Sederer says. A great way to frame it is to talk about yourself, and not the other person. "Look for ways to both deliver and receive pleasure that are comfortable to both people. Ask about when, frequency, sexual preferences," he says.
2. Talk about your friends behind their back. No, not in a gossip-y way, but in a way that addresses who each of your friends are, why they are important to you, and why it's important to you to maintain a friendship with him/her. "You may never understand why he/she would befriend such a ... fill in your favorite word (turkey, idiot, snob, primitive, etc.)," Sederer says. "[But] that's because you each are different." Keep in mind that you can be two "overlapping Venn circles of friendship."
3. Ask your partner to speak up if his/her needs aren't being met. There's never enough time in the day to put your full effort and attention into every single thing -- so ask your partner or friend to speak up if he/she is feeling the shaft. "Start with the premise that you cannot do everything fully, including all you want in relation to another person," Sederer says. "Forgive yourself before anything else so you can then figure out how to allot time in valuable ways that mean something to both people."