Is there something that needs changing in your relationship, or is the problem just fatigue? Fatigue can be the number one enemy of your relationship! The fatigue I am talking about is more than a few nights of lost sleep. This fatigue is about patterns over time, caused by lifestyle imbalance. (And sometimes caused by medical issues, or resulting from medical issues.)
Is this scene familiar?
Paula and Mick consult with me, to understand the cause of their relationship stress.
“I’m snappy all the time”, admits Paula, “but I don’t even know why I do it! I snap at Mick and he’s not even doing anything wrong. And worse still, I snap at the kids.”
“I usually take everything in my stride” adds Mick, “but now everything just drives me spare! Like Paula snapping at me.”
“I’m more or less OK, sort of coping”, says Paula, “and then something else comes up – things like one of the kids getting sick – and I just can’t take it. I don’t know what’s happening to me!”
“I’m like that too”, says Mick. “At work, I can hold it together, but by the time I get home, I’m too tired to care. I go through the motions, but really I can’t wait for the kids to go to sleep, so I can get some sleep myself.” Mick’s eyes mist up.
“Most of the week I’m looking forward to the weekend, so we can do some fun things. This hope gets me through the week”, adds Paula, “but then I’m too tired to do anything when the weekend arrives.”
“Except the chores”, says Mick, his shoulders hunched.
“And sometimes not even that”, Paula shrugs.
I could go on, and you could probably relate because this scenario is so common. If you are in this kind of situation, you feel really bad, and wonder who, or what is wrong.
Look at fatigue levels first – before you blame your relationship
Sometimes, there really isn’t a lot that’s wrong or that needs changing in your relationship – except perpetual fatigue, and what led to that fatigue. Fatigue has a devastating impact on your relationship. A perfectly good relationship can collapse under fatigue.
How fatigue impacts your relationship
Fatigue can be the enemy of your relationship in the following ways:
Stress-management is more difficult. Even mildly stressful events hassle you.
Fewer fun times.
Your window of tolerance shrinks – rapidly. Although your relationship might not be the CAUSE of the fatigue, it sure shows the impact.
Your creativity is low. For example, do you fall back on predictable routines, rather than innovative new ones?
You start more fights – and they last longer. Neither of you knows how to stop.
You are slow to hold your tongue and quick to take offence.
Inhibitions are lower, and hurtful remarks leave your lips more readily.
You are less able to read your partner’s emotions. Have you noticed that you are likely to read your partner’s emotional cues incorrectly (and in a negative direction)? Your own range of emotional response is probably blunted too.
You are likely to be hyper-vigilant. Your whole nervous system relaxes during sleep and down-time. Unwinding becomes more difficult when fatigued.
Well, of course, not enough sleep. Collectively we are sleeping less than ever before. We are getting into the habit of chronic sleep deprivation. This is true for both adults and children. Even one night with poor sleep will make it harder for you to be your best self. However, the fatigue effect is multiplied by the many night-time activities you enjoy, including night-time screen time. In Australia, pre-Christmas end-of-the-year fatigue is very real.
Are you in the habit of spending more than you earn? Does this drive you to perform at higher and higher levels? If your debt level is higher than you and your partner can easily tolerate, you will be constantly tired from both worry and overwork. Worry is exhausting! Learn what limits and boundaries you need in order to function well.
Are you expecting too much of each other? Do you also have very high expectation of all the after-school activities your children are doing? Do you have conflict over parenting styles? Or the weekend chores that are piling up?
Do your every-day emotional stresses keep building and building, without resolution? Do you resolve your conflict?
So, what can you do?
Rest, recharge and recuperate. When I was in India, I was repeatedly told, “Rest, Madam, rest”, and “You Westerners just don’t know how to rest.” Leunig agrees!
Do less rather than more. Reduce your expenditure of time, money and energy. Expect less of yourself and your partner. Allow for downtime – lots of downtime.
Cut your partner some slack. Decide what is the big stuff that needs your time and energy, and let the rest go.
Listen to your fatigue as a wise counsellor giving you important information. And check your fatigue levels before blaming the relationship.