Stress and Relationships

Life’s hard. We’ve all come to learn this through our own experiences. Adversity finds us, and it finds us with ease. Sometimes we deal well, and sometimes we don’t.

Almost always, the ones who bear the brunt of our emotional duress are those around us. Keeping our heads straight and keeping our emotions intact are what we’re told ‘adults’ do. So, we struggle. We keep ourselves under control, or at least we delude ourselves in thinking we’re managing to do so.

But then we snap. Little things piss us off, bend us out of shape. Inconsequential things, like other people’s bad driving, meaningless comments from our lovers, or so-called disappointments like the movie we’re wanting to see being rented out already. Then we grumble, moan, erupt.

Last week, a couple things sort of sent me headed towards Tizzy Land. My lover snapped at me once, and then said something a little crass and thoughtless the next day. Two things, two days in a row, was enough to make me start thinking, “Is this worth the effort? Don’t I deserve better?”

In reality, though, each of those moments couldn’t even amount to a molehill. Considering the weeks since we started seeing each other, all the adversity thrown at each of us, the fact that we’ve managed as well as we have in the face of those, and have had as many long and good and wonderful conversations as we’ve had, and that we have only had these two itty-bitty things to grouse about, things are going pretty fucking good.

The problem I’ve found with my relationship is that, with any new relationship, you get the “honeymoon period.” How doth I love thee? Let me count the ways. It’s the period when everything is bliss and sunshine, when you feel you’ve been blessed with something wildly great. It’s that time when everything you do is interrupted with those too-frequent giddy little thoughts of, “Mm, I’m seeing him/her tonight. Boy, I can’t wait! Mm… kisses!”

This relationship didn’t really come with a honeymoon period. It began with my being sick, followed by mutual money fears, followed by his short-lived good luck of being hired on permanently to his job, and then, whammo, a couple days later, he was felled with a serious broken leg that required two operations done same-day. Now, he’s on crutches still for about another month.

Me, I’ve been playing nursemaid, and I thought I wasn’t resentful about it. I really did. I’m the kind of gal who wants to be of use, who wants to help. Even more importantly, I’m a gal who spent a total of 20 weeks on crutches over about 13 and a half months, the last instance being just over a year ago. If anyone can relate to how fucking hard life on crutches is, it’s me. So, help I have, and as much as I’ve been able.

But then I snapped last week, and all because he had a grumpy moment. It’s fine and dandy to relate to someone’s problems, but when you think they have a reason to be grateful to you for putting yourself out for an hour or two, it’s far too bloody easy to forget that their frustrations are much greater than the few you’ve encountered in the recent hours. So, I disregarded how hard his life’s been of late, and how angry he probably is at all this, and let myself feel sorry for myself as a result, and then took it out on him.

A few years ago, it’d have been enough reason for me to walk away from the relationship. “Mmf, he doesn’t appreciate me.” I’d petulantly walk away, all in a huff, and take it personally. This time, I’m an adult with a little accumulated wisdom behind my years. I started to realize my anger wasn’t at him, not really. It was because we never had a honeymoon period, and now, here we were, in a “real” relationship, with disagreements and miscommunications, and it dawned on me… we probably would never have that honeymoon period after all. We’ve gone from meeting to having a mature, measured relationship, without any of the carefree bliss in between.

Caring for a person doesn’t necessarily mean you’re always going to be able to treat them as they deserve to be treated. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves about how difficult our adversities are. It’s even more difficult to be honest with ourselves about how overwhelmed we’re feeling in the face of those adversities. And let’s face it, it’s brutal to admit our powerlessness to someone we’re hoping always sees us at our best, especially if you’re the guy and you’re supposed to be stoic and strong. But as a woman, it can also be really challenging to admit those feelings because we don’t want to be perceived as needy or overly emotional. Both sexes always have too much to lose from telling the truth, or so we seem to believe.

Admitting disappointments and anger and fear and hopelessness is akin to admitting we’re not tough enough to take life on. None of us wants to be that person, the one who’s being beaten by adversity. None of us wants to admit to embarrassment or failure. The one person we ought to be able to admit these things to is the one person we hope will never find it out. We don’t want their illusions of us to be shattered. After all, we know the truth: We’re not perfect.

Or, maybe it’s a little different from that. In my case, I didn’t want to seem petty. I didn’t want my guy to know I was angry he broke his leg, that I was hurt by the reality that we were suddenly thrust into this serious situation whereby our bliss was hurled out the third floor window of a hospital. The incisions in his legs cut into the heart of our relationship and made things complicated – when things should have seemed blissful and easy.

The thing about a new relationship is that it takes the edge off an already hard life for a little bit, and we didn’t have that. I found myself resentful about it, and as a result, I hated that I could feel such a way – feel so petty, so needy – when I really, really liked the guy regardless of the struggles he now faced.

It’s hard to tell someone you resent what’s occurring to you as a result of their adversities, and that resentment can really prove damaging to us. A great example of this is from the absolutely incredible and amazing miniseries Angels in America, when Louis leaves Prior because Prior’s been diagnosed with AIDS. Louis loves Prior as much as any person can, but he’s too fucking weak to stand around and watch his lover succumb to his horrid disease, so he walks, and in so doing, very nearly destroys himself as a result.

We hate ourselves for our inability to deal with life’s challenges, and it certainly can kill our relationships. We all know that stresses send our sexual desires plummeting sometimes, and with that, one of our healthiest forms of release takes a walk on us, and next thing you know, an already unpleasant situation escalates.

In my situation, I think we’ve overcome the worst of the Guy’s adversities. It’s not over, not by a long shot, and I hope I’m woman enough to continue admitting to him when it’s difficult for me, too, while still being there for him when he needs it. I’ve no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead for us as he begins the slow path to rehabilitation, but then, I’ve been through similar struggles myself, and I know that if anyone can provide the support and understanding he’s going to need during this time, it’s me. And, fortunately, something inside of me says it’s worth it. I hope I’m right. But therein lies another struggle, that of unknowing and that of doubt. We just never know.

But we can hope. So, I do. I know there’s one great tool we both have at our disposal, and fortunately, we both know how to use it, and that’s communication. It’s the only thing that gets us through these times, and it can never be underestimated.