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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When Families Feud: Effects of Stress

Have you ever looked around your house and wondered, "How did it get this dirty?" My husband and I had this experience last Saturday.

Problem is, no one wants to admit having been the one to start piling the dishes up, or having left a plate on the table or not told our daughter that she really should throw most of her toys in the trash because they are actual trash. (What is it with kids and trash they think are "treasures?")

Anyway...this brought about a little fight disagreement between my husband and me. We exchanged some heated words (proud to say there was no cursing) about whose fault most of the mess was. We usually just point our fingers at our oblivious daughter, sigh, and go into a cleaning session that makes Martha Stewart look bad.

This past Saturday, though, was different.


Because our family unit is under a bit of stress.

Stress makes even little arguments balloon out of proportion. My husband has started a new job as a youth minister (part of the reason for the no cursing). If you didn't know it, youth ministers have weird hours. I don't think they have an actual "schedule," you know, like normal working folk. It's more of a vague, ambiguous "I don't know when I'll be home" kind of thing.

Bottom line: Our family system reacted differently (heated words) because one family member (my husband) had changed the status quo.

Systems operate that way. Any good Marriage and Family Therapist will tell you that. This is a great example from my own life to illustrate my point.

Family members have to shift to account for a change in another family member. Readjust, if you will. It's the readjustment that sometimes brings a family into therapy, but in contrast, it can be the status quo that needs to be readjusted that brings a family in. Either way, the system changes.

My husband and I are fine, by the way. We both recognize (and more importantly, talk about) the changes in our life and how this affects our reactions to each other. We're hunkering down for this transitional period....and we're going to ride it out on top of the wave.

Let's Analyze: Summer breaks are around the corner (or already here) for most of us...and this is a huge stressor for families because schedules change, as do expectations and responsibilities. Any shifts going on in your family at this time?