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Perhaps nothing is as important in our lives as our relationships with other people. It has often been said that a happy family is the key to success. Much of our joy comes from our memories of Thanksgiving dinners around the dining room table or Christmas presents exchanged in the family room. But it is also true that the relationships that provide us with so much happiness can also be a source of stress.

Mental health experts say that our interpersonal relationships can increase our stress level. Since it is not possible—nor advisable—to eliminate these relationships from our lives, we have to work hard to ensure that our relationships do not get the better of us. This means focusing our attention on the inherent stressors within relationships, and doing our best to eliminate or at least reduce stress where possible.

One of the major stressors in relationships is a communication problem. For instance, you may become angry at your mate because he or she fails to do chores around the house. However, the bigger issue at stake is the fact that you feel as if your mate doesn't really love you. By bridging the communication gap—by articulating exactly what your needs are in a loving and supportive way—you can help ease the tension in your relationship.

Another source of stress can be a feeling that your mate is not supportive of your efforts, either at home or at work. You may feel as if your spouse doesn't appreciate all your hard work and effort. This could, in turn, lead you to attempt to overachieve, thinking that, by doing so, you will win your mate's support and love. However, such a tactic could backfire, causing you more stress than you need.

But your relationship with your spouse may not be the only relationship that is causing you stress. You may also be burdened by problems in your relationship with your parents. For instance, you might feel as if your parents disapprove of your career choice, your choice of spouse, or your choices when it comes to parenting your children. The fear of disapproval can lead to tension which can, in turn, give rise to stress. By trying to understand your parents' perspective, you can help smooth out the tensions in your relationship. Also, attempt to boost your self-confidence, as far as your decision-making capability is concerned. This will help you to recognize the fact that your parents' disapproval will not break you—that you can learn from their criticism and can become a better person for it.

Sibling rivalries can also cause a great deal of stress. You might feel as if you constantly need to compete with your brother or sister—that you need to have the better car, the prettier wife, the bigger house, the more prestigious job. If this is, indeed, the case, you might need to re-order your priorities. Recognize that your brother or sister is a talented individual, that he or she should be respected and appreciated. Realize that competition between siblings is seldom helpful and more often counter-productive. Once you stop trying to openly compete, you might find that your sibling calls a halt to the competition as well. In this way, you can both learn to find common ground—to work together rather than against each other.

In addition, you may experience stress in your relationship with one of your co-workers. You might experience continual conflict, as you continue to disagree on the most minuscule details. If the conflict appears to be overwhelming, you may need intervention by a supervisor in order to get your stress level under control. The worst thing you could do is to let things simmer until they reach the boiling point.

It should be noted here that you cannot eliminate stress entirely from your relationships. However, it is possible to minimize it. By engaging in effective communication, trying to view conflicts from the other person's perspective, and dealing with differences of opinion openly and honestly, you can reduce the amount of stress in your interpersonal relationships. You may find that you are a great deal happier and even healthier as a result of such stress-busting techniques

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