Although you’ve probably heard the story of the boy who cried wolf, you probably don’t consider yourself someone who cries wolf. After all, that’s someone who acts like there is a major problem when there really isn’t over and over again, and expects everyone around them to pay attention to the supposed problem. Oh, wait, is that sounding familiar?
We all cry wolf sometimes. We look at a small problem, and instead of recognizing it as the small problem it is, we treat it like a major emergency. We obsess over it in private, dissect it in conversations with friends and family, and initiate long conversations with our partners about the horrors of this problem and its potential long term effects on our relationship.
Obviously, treating little things like emergencies makes life difficult for our partners. Being around you, someone who is stressed and anxious, increases your partner’s stress and anxiety. Also, they have to spend their time and energy talking through the problem with you, finding solutions, and helping your regain perspective. Over time, that becomes exhausting!
As the story of the boy who cried wolf teaches us, constantly treating small things in your relationship like emergencies is not just frustrating and stress-inducing for your partner; it also makes it less likely that your partner (or anyone else) will take you seriously when you point out a real emergency. They will have already used up the time and energy they have available for attending to your assertions that there is a major problem, and you will have less support in your emergency than you otherwise would have.
No one can stay calm all the time. Everyone freaks out sometimes about problems that aren’t really a big deal. That’s okay. The boy who cried wolf didn’t have problems because he said once that there was a wolf when there wasn’t, but because he did it over and over. Just keep an eye out for the tendency in yourself to exaggerate small problems, and try to avoid it as often as possible. Save your emergency alert level for things that are really emergencies.