Results from the People Smarts Survey on what most stresses women out in our relationships

A little while back, I ran a survey on what most stresses us women out, when it comes to our relationships.

57 women replied, and that was enough of a sample to provide some fascinating insights into what is really stressing women out, when it comes to our relationships. I thought ‘mother-in-laws’ would figure prominently high on the list, but I was wrong about that..

Read on, to learn more.



37% of the women who responded were aged between 41-50; 22% were aged 31-40, and then the 21-30 and 51-60 age groups were tied with just under 16% each. 10% of respondents were aged over 60.


Almost half (47%) of respondents were stressed out by their spouse / partner, with 46% being stressed by their children. Perhaps surprisingly, given how many ‘ bad in-law’ jokes feature in our society, respondents were more stressed by their own parents (40%) and their siblings (32%) than by their in-laws (19%).

19% of respondents were also stressed-out by their work colleagues.

Chart showing the main relationships stressing the women in my survey out


I’ve analyzed the main relationship stressors for each age group, and here’s the key findings for each age group:


  • 100% of the 21-30 age group were stressed-out by their parents.

People in this age bracket found it hard to actually talk to their parents, and almost a third of respondents had resorted to trying to block their parents out of their life; to move away from them; or to maintain a purely superficial relationship with them.


  • Parents were still the biggest stressor (60%) for the 31-40 age group.
  • 53% were stressed by their relationship with their partner / spouse.
  • 47% were stressed by their children.
  • Only 20% of respondents were stressed by their in-laws.

The main issues for this group were conflicting goals and ideals; trying to deal with their own and other people’s unmet expectations, and difficulties communicating about their frustrations in a way that wouldn’t lead to angry outbursts, either theirs or other peoples.


  • A full two thirds of respondents in this age group (67%) were feeling stressed by their children.
  • The next source of relationship stress was the partner / spouse, with 57% citing that as stressful.
  • And in joint third place, (48%) were siblings and parents.
  • 33% of this age group were stressed by their in-laws.

This age group had the greatest amount, and the greatest variety of relationship stress, reflecting the ‘sandwich’ effect, where they are caught between often competing demands for their time and resources from many different family members, and also, the work place.

The biggest challenges for this group were ‘trying to please everyone’, and not losing the self while trying to manage everyone else’s moods and expectations.

‘Controlling my emotions’ was frequently cited as a big challenge, for this age group, as was a fear of confrontation. At the same time, there was an acknowledgement that “I can’t keep being the ‘good one’ in the relationship”, and that this growing need to confront issues instead of pushing them away or papering over the cracks was also a major source of stress.


  • Half of respondents were still finding the relationship with their children stressful.
  • Surprisingly, stress from the spouse seems to have totally dropped off for this age group – presumably because a decision was made to either go it alone, or accept the situation.
  • In joint second place, 38% of respondents still found their relationship with parents stressful; and the same amount were also being stressed by their siblings.

The key challenge for this group appears to be learning how to trust again – both themselves, and other people.


  • The multiple relationship stressors seem to boil down to just one main ‘relationship stressor’ for this age group. The responses varied greatly from person to person as to what this still-stressful relationship actually was, with the greatest number of ‘other’ (specific to the individual) responses than for any other groups.

For this age group, the biggest thing stressing them out in their relationships was a lack of open communication.

They were done with playing games and pussy-footing around issues, and strongly preferred to have all the cards laid on the table, so they could see what they were really dealing with.


Taken across all respondents, the 3 main challenges causing stress in relationships were:

  • Communication issues, particularly in relation to dealing with differences of opinion
  • Unreasonable expectations (theirs and other peoples)
  • Trying to maintain healthy boundaries that gave them adequate protection, without pushing other people away or creating unnecessary friction in their relationships.

I have some stuff that can help you!

I’ve put together some free resources with some easy hacks for how to start to open up these three challenges, as I have the feeling a lot of women are struggling with these issues. If you’d like to get them, just pop your name in the box below, and keep an eye on your inbox (or more likely, your spam folder…) for my email.

From what I can see, the world is only getting crazier and crazier… so learning how to crush our stress is going to be a really valuable skill, going forward.


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