A little relationship drama is healthy. Strong emotions are evidence that we care about someone. In fact, if a relationship is drama-free, it might lack appropriate passion or commitment. A lack of drama, however, usually isn’t the problem. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve got that relative, coworker, or friend in a relationship who’s all drama, all the time. When drama defines a relationship, you need to find the source and drain it out.
Here are four of the most common sources of relationship drama.
1) The Battle of the Mundane. Drama shows up in arguments about who’s right or wrong in a situation where there is no right or wrong. When your coworker says the office is too cold, there’s no way to prove she’s right unless icicles hang from your cubicles. You can’t prove that your best friend is a slob unless he has cobwebs in his armpits and stains on all of his clothes. We get frustrated when someone else experiences the world in a way we can’t understand, but it’s a common relationship dynamic. In low-drama, low-maintenance relationships, people talk about how to manage differences instead of squabbling over the minutia of life.
2) The Battle for Objective Reality. Ever had a conversation like this?
Jane: Hi, Mike.
Jane: What’s wrong? You sound mad. Am I bothering you?
Mike: No, I’m just tired.
Jane: What did I do?
Mike: Nothing! I’m just tired.
Jane: Now you definitely sound mad at me.
Mike: No, you sound mad at me! I didn’t do anything!
When we second-guess, interpret, and analyze others, it’s easy to end up with erroneous information. In this situation, Jane should’ve taken Mike at his word. Yes, some people are passive-aggressive and avoid direct communication, but trying to pull the truth out of such folks just reinforces the behavior. If your boyfriend says he’s tired when he’s actually mad at you, it’s his problem that he can’t bring himself to communicate.
3) The Battle for Power. The number one cause of drama is a simple yet powerful dynamic we’ll call auto-correction. If someone says something that hurts our feelings, it makes us feel powerless. We usually want that power back right away. The only way to do this is to say something more hurtful. This is why people say things they don’t mean when they fight. In drama-packed relationships, people argue to get the upper hand instead of trying to resolve problems.
4) The Battle Within. Drama rooted in delusion is the most difficult to overcome. Wounds from old relationships can resurface in new ones. For example, if you still suffer from a past betrayal, you may be suspicious in new relationships and see deceit where none exists. Projection of old hurts onto new relationships can result in conflicts that feel psychotic. If all your relationships have conflicts with a recurring theme, you might need professional counseling.
The following three steps might not drain all the drama from your relationship, but they should at least soak some of it up.
1) Take a Break. When we become upset, our nervous system kicks into fight-or-flight mode. It takes a minimum of 20 minutes for your biochemistry to return to normal, allowing you to relax and think rationally. When arguments become heated, agree to take a break and resume the conversation when you’re both calm.
2) Show Compassion. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you” (The Message). Let go of your own needs for a moment and let the other person know you care and want to understand, even if you disagree. Love and sensitivity drain drama faster than anything.
3) Rely on God’s Love (Not Yours). Some people drive me nuts. I don’t have enough love and compassion for them, but God does. Romans 9:16 says, “Compassion doesn’t originate in our bleeding hearts or moral sweat, but in God’s mercy” (The Message). Putting relationships in God’s hands is always the best move. God’s tolerance for drama is a lot higher than ours, because His capacity for love is so much greater.
It’s inevitable that we will encounter some drama in our lives. To keep things in check, here are three common ways acceptable drama may enter your relationship.
1) Occasional jealousy. Jealousy gets a bad rap. People think it’s a sign of insecurity or possessiveness. That’s the case with chronic jealousy, but occasional jealousy just means you’re serious about a relationship and wary of potential threats. Friendships with members of the opposite sex are common for young adults, making it easy for a boyfriend or girlfriend to get their emotional feathers ruffled.
2) Righteous anger. Some Christians think anger is a sin or a sign of immaturity, but sometimes we’re supposed to get mad. If someone intentionally or recklessly hurts you, it’s fine to express anger. The right amount of assertiveness demonstrates self-esteem and an expectation of respect from others.
3) Sadness over loss. When we experience loss, whether it’s the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the derailing of hopes and dreams, sadness is a healthy reaction. Ecclesiastes 7:3 says, “A sad face is good for the heart” (NIV). God created us to experience the full range of human emotions, not just serenity and happiness. Sadness also gives us empathy and patience later, when we need to support someone else going through a loss.