Reader Question: My husband is stressed all the time!Ever feel like your husband is stressed all the time–and because of that he’s always short with you?

On Mondays I like to post a reader question and then take a stab at answering it, and today I’ve got one from a woman who says that when they go on vacation the sex and the relationship is amazing. But then as soon as they get home, the relationship falls apart because her husband is so stressed.

Reader Question

I’ve just celebrated our twentieth anniversary with an amazing overseas trip. We spoiled each other rotten.

But how do we spend such a fabulous time together where the sex is spectacular both physically and emotionally, and then arrive back home and his frustration levels grow to such an extent that it’s impossible to have a conversation?

I’ve treated him with the utmost respect. I haven’t screamed or made unreasonable demands. I did ask him to please refrain from continuously referring to problems he’s facing as they rarely resolve and because of that, I feel useless to help him gain victory which is just debilitating.

To be honest we’ve had 2 major blow outs this year, both after magical weeks of intimacy and then boom! I feel like I’ve prostituted myself. The hardest thing for me is keeping my heart open to our intimate connection.

I’d really value any words of wisdom. If financial pressure is too much (I’m a stay at home Mom), then I would happily forgo the travel lavishing if we could just maintain a steadier relational equilibrium.

Okay, let’s take a stab at this! Once again, I’m only going on the information I have here. I don’t know what their conflicts or about, or what the conflicts look like. I don’t know if he has anger issues or not. But, just going on the information here, a few things occur to me, so here goes!

When your husband is stressed all the time: 8 tips to help him process stress and move forward.

Most people have reasons behind their actions

This is a simple fact of human behaviour: we do things for a reason.

Therefore, if he’s happy when he’s on vacation, but gets upset at her when he’s at home, there is probably a reason beyond just “he’s a bad person” or “he’s crazy.”

Sheila’s tip: If you start thinking that your husband is being entirely unreasonable and irrational, it’s quite likely there’s something big about this situation that you’re missing.

When people act a certain way, they are often reacting to someone else. Thus, it’s always good to ask if you are doing anything that they could find difficult.

To go along with our first point, if people aren’t islands, that means that they are usually reacting to something that someone else is doing. So if you’re having an issue with someone, the first step should always be to ask: “could I be doing something that is rubbing him the wrong way?”

Now, it could very well be that in examining yourself you find the answer is “no”. When husbands are emotionally abusive, for instance, they frequently blame everyone else for their outbursts and never take ownership of their own actions. And that can make the wife and the kids think that they are responsible for causing the problem, even if that’s not true. If you fear you may be an emotionally abusive marriage, then please read this.

However, most relationships are not emotionally abusive. Given that their vacation is wonderful and there aren’t problems there, I’d imagine that likely this relationship is not emotionally abusive either, because they are capable of feeling very intimate with one another.

Therefore, it’s always good to ask yourself: “am I doing something to make him feel uncomfortable or attacked?”

Romans 12:18

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Sheila’s tip: Look to yourself first. Do what you can. Make peace–knowing that it is not ALWAYS up to you and it’s not always possible.

Are you allowing your husband to be honest with his stress?

Here’s what I think is going on from a cursory reading of this letter: they have a great time when they’re on vacation because the work world and everyday pressures are gone. But when those pressures are back, he’s stressed. He wants to talk to her about it. He wants to feel free to be stressed. But she is interpreting the fact that he is stressed as a personal attack on her, instead of asking, “how can I support him in what he’s going through?”

She said,

I’ve treated him with the utmost respect. I haven’t screamed or made unreasonable demands. I did ask him to please refrain from continuously referring to problems he’s facing as they rarely resolve and because of that, I feel useless to help him gain victory which is just debilitating.

It seems as if her main concern here is that SHE feels debilitated by the fact that he has problems that don’t seem to have solutions. But if she feels debilitated by that, imagine how HE feels! They’re his problems, after all. They’re things that he has to face at work. Has she thought about that?

So why is life so much worse for them as soon as they get home from vacation? I think that’s another clue to what’s going on in her husband’s heart. He feels close to her when they’re away. He feels like they’re finally connected. Maybe, just maybe, she’s going to be his ally now and they’ll be on the same team. And then as soon as they get home, she insists that he still act as if life is perfect–but life isn’t. And that feels like the ultimate betrayal to him because he thought you finally accepted him and loved him for who he was, and now it feels conditional to him. In other words, he’s feeling the same rejection you are.

The difference, though, is that he can’t do anything about it. He can’t make his stress disappear or deny it, which is what she seems to be asking him to do in order for her to accept him. She, however, could choose to help him and extend that intimacy that they felt on vacation, rather than putting limits on him.

Sheila’s tip: don’t withdraw or get upset if your husband seems stressed.

Become a safe place for your husband to work through his stress

Look, a lot of us are married to guys who have stress. Sometimes it’s stress over potential job loss. Sometimes it’s stress because of toxic relationships at work. Sometimes it’s just simply the stress of the job. My husband has a LOT of stress at his work. He’s a pediatrician and often has to make life and death decisions. He sometimes can’t sleep and often has nightmares that he’ll do exactly the wrong thing. It’s scary. And I can never really understand it completely because I’m not a doctor (though I have this recurring nightmare where he gets paged in the middle of the night to come to a delivery for a premature baby and he sends me instead because he doesn’t want to go, and then I remember that I forgot to go to medical school and grab his textbooks before I jump in the car).

Here’s the question: What are you going to do to help your husband through stress?

A few quick tips:

Tips for Helping Your Husband Through Stress

  • DON’T express displeasure when he’s upset. Say something like, “you look like something’s bothering you. Do you want to go for a walk and talk about it?” rather than “why are you always so down?” or “can’t you just enjoy the family?”
  • DO allow him to process things with you. When he starts talking, say something like, “tell me more about that” or “how did that make you feel”?
  • DON’T try to fix the problem. Just because there isn’t an immediate solution or an obvious course of action doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about it. Sometimes the point is the talking, not the fixing.
  • DON’T baby him. Don’t say, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this!” or “It’s so unfair, and I love you so much” constantly. A little bit, okay. All the time? It sounds like you’re talking to your 8-year-old son.
  • DO express confidence that he can handle this. Say things like, “I know you’ll make the right decision”, or “I’m so impressed that you managed to keep your cool” or “I think you’re handling this really well.”
  • DO ask how you can pray. Start the day by saying, “what’s one specific thing I can pray for you today?”
  • DO ask if you can help. “If there’s ever anything I can do to make it easier, even if it’s just researching other jobs or anything for you, let me know. I want to help, but I don’t want to do something that would make the situation even more awkward.”
  • DO keep having sex. Seriously! It’s a great stress reliever. Sometimes guys who are stressed find their libidos shut down. But if your husband is still willing, or still interested if you do the seducing, then do the seducing! Instead of getting upset because he may not initiate as much, you start initiating. It can be one of the best ways to help him feel close, strong, and powerful.

Let's ask our husbands those questions to help them process stress!

I hope that helps!

Now let me know in the comments: Has your husband ever been stressed? How did you handle that period of your marriage?

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