Every marriage experiences stress. It can come from work, family, friends, and even finances. Couples may suffer from stress over a conflict or a difficult period in their marriage- arguments, differences, or feeling neglected.
While we already know how stress affects us mentally and physically, Stress can negatively impact relationships.
Although stress is part of the human experience, it can be harmful to relationships. What happens to many of us is that we bottle it up or keep the stress to ourselves, which makes it difficult for our partners to understand what we are going through and to provide support. Pulling into yourself and trying to manage it alone erects a barrier to emotional intimacy
Being stressed and taking it out on a partner, is another way it can negatively impact the relationship. You know when you are totally stressed out and your spouse says something that just hits a nerve that isn’t always so raw? And it can be such an innocuous thing.
I know that when I feel really stressed and my husband comes to me with what I think is just not as important as the stressful thing in my life, I can be downright snippy. It isn’t about your partner, but about you. You are reacting out of a stressed place.
Not dealing with stress can impact relationships when couples “catch” each other’s stress. When our partners are stressed, we become stressed. Stress can breed stress in a marriage. We feed on one another’s stress.
Think back to an argument that escalated quickly. You might have “caught” one another’s stress during the argument, which made you both feel even more frazzled and made you say things you wouldn’t have otherwise said. Couples get stuck in this negative cycle and may be too stressed to deal with the underlying issue(s).
So, how do you keep your stress from putting an unnecessary burden on your marriage? Stress inside and outside of the marriage must be effectively managed with a few simple coping strategies.
Don’t go it alone
Oh, how many years have I did this. I wanted everyone, including my husband, to think I had it all together. I was strong. I could figure it out. I can’t say this enough, this is the worst thing you can do in this life.
While I think it is super important to have a tribe who can help you think through your stress, giving you feedback and encouragement, you must also include your spouse in what you are going through. What gets in the way is thinking we can deal with it alone. That we should be able to figure it out on our own. That our spouse won’t get it or will try to fix it for us. All these are skewed stories you are telling yourself.
You joined the “we” club when you joined your life with your partner. You are no longer on your own. Trust your spouse with your struggles. Vulnerability is essential for intimacy.
Ask for what you need
If you just need a listener, ask for that. If your spouse tends to be a “fixer” ask them to be a listener first. If you want feedback, their insight (and I think this is super helpful) ask them for it.
I will be going through stress, isolating myself, and struggling without bringing my spouse in. Now that I’ve started doing this, my spouse is ready to listen and support me just by my opening up. He helps me get perspective and often a different way of seeing things.
After you get vulnerable about your stress and the feelings that accompany it, ask for what you need. This is so important. When you’ve been married for a while, you might expect your spouse to automatically know what you need, but that is unfair.
Your spouse should never be guessing how they can support you. You might need time alone, help with tasks, or simply more hugs.
Set up a safe place
When you see your spouse struggling but not talking about it, choose a relaxed moment to simply say, “You seem really stressed. I’m here to listen and support you if you want to talk about it. I care about what you are going through.” It sets up a safe place for them to open up. Just knowing someone sees you and wants to support you softens the resolve to figure it out alone.
I practice this with every close relationship in my life. It’s easier to open up when you see that someone cares. And always ask how you can best support them. Here’s a caveat, you cannot make your spouse open up if they aren’t ready. Accept it and know you have been the kind of spouse you should be.
Learn ways you can support yourself in managing stress. Only you have control over how you manage the stress in your life. Absolutely you need support from others, but ultimately you are responsible for managing this stressful life.
Ask yourself if there is anything you can change to alleviate some of the stress you are feeling. Some of our stress we cannot change. Challenges abound in this life and we will never be immune to them, but sometimes letting go of the things you can’t control and focusing on what you can control can lessen the stress you are feeling.
Set some boundaries in your life. Stress can come from overcommitment. I call this captivity to activity. When you try to be everything to everybody, you are going to be stressed because you will feel depleted.
Say “no.” Whittle down the stressors. Don’t try to do everything at once. Give yourself some slack. Be kinder to yourself. Find some way to unwind every single day. If your spouse is stressed, do a little extra for them to show your love and support, and allow them to do the same.
Deal with the stress inside your marriage
Finally, if the stress is coming from inside your marriage, now is the time to seek a solution. The stress of your marriage will not go away by wishing it away. You have to do what it takes to deal with the underlying issues causing the stress.
Learn what it takes to repair a marriage, learn the skills to turn your relationship around, and put them into practice. It won’t go perfectly, but progress is better than perfection. After doing the work on my own marriage, the stress is at a minimum. That’s not to say things can’t come up to heighten stress at times, but for us, it is not the norm anymore.
If you need someone to help you change the course of your marriage and alleviate the stress, I am here to help. I offer a 6-month Midlife Marriage Breakthrough Program for midlife couples who want to create deeper intimacy and meaning in their marriages. To find out more about this program, go to http://www.reviveyourmidlifemarriage.com. There is a place to schedule a free 1-hour discovery call to discuss where your marriage is, where you want it to be, and how I can help you.
Stress from outside and inside of your marriage has a negative effect on your mental, emotional, and physical health. It steals joy by dominating your thoughts and emotions. But we have the power to manage our stress. There are solutions.
I want to end today by thanking you for being a loyal listener. Time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. I’m honored my podcast feels worthy of your time.