It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I write a post, and then you all chime in by linking up your own marriage posts to the Linky below! Today I want to talk about stress in marriage.
I’m having one of those months where life just seems overwhelming. I have a lot on my plate, and we’ve had a ton of changes this year. Our oldest daughter went off to university. We’re almost empty nesters. And my speaking and writing is taking up more and more of my time, so we have to figure out new ways of “doing” our family.
When we think of things that cause problems in a marriage we often think of interpersonal things–we don’t communicate well, he doesn’t understand my love language, our libidos don’t match–but often the things that cause the most trouble are external. We just go through a lot of changes in a hurry.
I recently received an email that said:
I grew up in an anti-religious family but have recently found comfort and purpose in starting to read the bible and study Christianity. I am seeking your advice because I am new to this and have found your posts inspirational. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to spend the past 8 years together going out on dates, traveling, and doing a lot of whatever we really wanted to do. We have recently purchased a home (which is double what we were paying in rent) and have now found out we are expecting our first child. Although I know my husband is happy about these life changes, he is feeling overwhelmed that it is all happening and once and that we are having to give up a lot of what we used to be able to do. I have tried to talk to him about this but he just seems sad and withdrawn and it hurts me to see him this way. How can I help him adjust and be able to accept these big changes all at once?
I’m sure many of you can relate. You get a new job, a new baby, a new home, and all of these things are wonderful, but they also bring a lot of stress.
The majority of what we do throughout a day is habit–we don’t actually think about it. So it takes very little brain power. You get into your routines, you know what’s expected, and so you go ahead and do it, and it leaves you brain power to think about other things.
But when things hit you all at once that change your habits, all of a sudden you need to develop all new routines. And that requires a lot of brain power, and hence a lot of stress. It almost doesn’t matter whether those changes are bad or good–they still are difficult adjustments.
So how do you deal with stress even during these times?
How to Reduce Stress in Marriage
1. Talk Together for 15 Minutes a Day
A lot of people swear by “date nights”–you have to have one night a week that’s just for you. I’m not as attached to date nights as I am to the talking rule. I think it’s far more important to connect everyday and just talk about what’s on your mind.
Of course, talking over the kitchen table may feel weird to your husband, who likely would rather communicate while DOING something. So go for a walk every night after dinner. Talk on the phone or on Skype if you’re separated by work or school. Do a puzzle together. Snuggle together in bed. Just spend that time talking everyday to connect.
My husband and I did this especially when the kids were small and would often vie for our attention. We’d stick them in strollers and head out. We always found they were less fussy out on a walk, and then we got to talk. So even if your kids are little, make time to talk to each other.
One caveat: she says she’s trying to talk to him, but he’s withdrawing. I don’t think talking about the stress is always the answer. And you don’t need to reassure him that everything’s okay! Just simply talk. Ask him how his day was. Tell him what’s on your mind. Talk about your dreams. It doesn’t have to be super serious even; as long as we’re connecting and sharing what’s on our mind, we’ll feel significantly less stress.
If your spouse is stressed, sometimes trying to get them to open up about it in the thoughts that this will cure it puts a lot of pressure on a spouse, and does cause them to withdraw. Don’t try to take away the stress; just try to share. It’s a different dynamic, and it’s often healthier.
2. Cut Back on Optional Activities
Maybe you love being part of the praise team at church. Maybe you love taking your children to gymnastics lessons every week. Maybe he loves being on a soccer team. These things may be wonderful, and they may even be relaxing–usually. But when we’re going through a stressful time, having one more thing on our plate is often the straw that broke the camel’s back, even if you would normally love that thing.
It’s okay to say, “for the next year we just can’t do that as a family.” We’re going through too much, and we have to pare down.
That’s hard when it’s kid things, because we do want the best for our children. But children will not thrive in a household where mom and dad are stressed out of their gourd. If you’ve just moved, for instance, it’s likely going to take about six months before that house feels natural and everything is unpacked. It’s okay to take that six months and get adjusted. In the long run it’s a relatively short amount of time, and you do not need to do everything all the time.
3. Keep the Routines You Can
If stress is caused when our routines get all disrupted, then try to keep what you can! Go to church together. Get up together. Have that cup of coffee together. If every Friday night used to be movie night, try to keep it as movie night–even if you can’t go out and watch a movie together anymore because you have little ones. Watch one on the computer instead.
Seriously. If a couple can laugh together, you can get through anything! Need help laughing? I wrote a post on 14 ways to play with your husband. Maybe we all need a reminder sometimes.
5. Give Yourself a Break
I’m in the middle of a rough time in my marriage–through no fault of me or my husband. He took a new job that requires a 45 minute commute, and he’s on call there about 5 times a month, so he has to stay overnight. I also do quite a few speaking engagements. He’s always been on call, but he used to be on call in our hometown, so he’d still sleep at home (unless he was called in). Before we used to be away from each other maybe 10% of the nights in a year. Now it’s closer to 25%. And it gets hard.
It won’t always be this way. When our youngest daughter leaves home, we’ll change some things up and perhaps rent an apartment in the city where he works to stay in during the week or something. We’ll have more options. But for right now we just don’t.
I could get upset about it. I could say, “we’re not together enough!”, and bemoan this. I could worry. But honestly, it’s just for a time. And we’re staying rock solid anyway. It’s not ideal, and I don’t like it, but I’ve got to decide that sometimes there are seasons in a marriage that aren’t ideal, and that’s okay. There’s no point in beating yourself up about it. You just do what you can do.
That applies to so many seasons in marriage. When babies come, your house will no longer be as clean. That’s okay. Give yourself a break. When you’re in school, you won’t have as much time to play with your kids. That’s okay. Give yourself a break. When he’s on shift work, you may not make love as much as you used to. That’s okay. Give yourself a break.
It’s a season, and it’s tough, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Just walk through it, one day at a time, and keep talking and laughing!
6. Have Sex
Seriously. When you make love, you produce the hormone oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. And it helps you feel close and intimate to your husband. What you likely need right now is a whole lot of oxytocin, so go ahead and make it!
And sex is a great stress reliever. Instead of thinking of it as one more thing on a hectic to-do list, think of sex as something which will help relax and invigorate you so that you can deal with the rest of your to-do list much more easily. It puts you in a better mood, helps you to feel like at least one thing is right with the world, and makes him smile, too.
I asked about this scenario on my Facebook Page, and the answers were just awesome! I’ve listed a few, but there are so many more suggestions. I’d encourage you to read through them. There are some great ones! And add your own, too.
Now, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here, too, so other people can read all these great marriage posts!