If I asked, “what is causing stress in your marriage?”, what would you say?
Most people would rhyme off typical marriage problems–he doesn’t understand me; he doesn’t spend enough time with me; she’s not having sex with me enough; we’re not connecting.
And all of these things may be true.
But what I’d like to talk about this month is something slightly different.
What if the reason that you and your husband feel stress in your marriage is not primarily about your marriage at all, but instead about your life?
On the Wednesdays of each month I like to choose one topic and build a series out of it, and this month we’ll be looking at what is causing stress in marriage, and how we can reduce stress and anxiety in marriage.
And thanks so much to the Get Your Marriage On app for sponsoring this series, too! It’s a wonderful tool (that you’ll hear about in a moment).
But here’s what I mean:
Limiting and minimizing stress and anxiety in our lives is a huge topic of conversation these days because people are understanding how dangerous stress is long-term. And all of that is great. What is not so great is that often the way people deal with anxiety is to just try to make it go away, not deal with the root cause.
Anxiety and stress are symptoms of a bigger problem–they’re warning signs that something in our lives isn’t right.
Sometimes, it’s a warning sign that there’s just something in our brain chemistry that’s off and we need medication for a time or a lot of counselling. But many times stress and anxiety are a result of things we have put into our lives that are not healthy.
For example, if you’re living outside your means and are consistently living paycheck to paycheck without assurance you can pay the electricity bills, you’re going to feel a lot of stress. But the stress is not the problem; the financial habits are! To really deal with this problem, there are big changes that need to be made in terms of living expenses. Maybe it’s time to sell the big house and downsize to a condo or an apartment for a time until you can build up your savings again. Maybe it’s time to take the kids out of so many activities and sports and get on a strict budget. The anxiety isn’t actually the problem–it’s just the warning sign that there is a problem.
Too often I think we try to get rid of the anxiety or the stress without actually asking, “Why am I stressed/anxious?”
For Connor and Rebecca early in their marriage it meant making the decision to put Rebecca’s academic plans on hold because school was making her have panic attacks and it just wasn’t healthy for them at the time. If she had just pushed through and gone on to her PhD like she wanted, they simply would not have as good of a marriage as they do right now because it wasn’t a good fit for her at that time.
We were created to be beings with margins. God gave us a Sabbath day of rest and orders us to take one! But often we make choices that take away all of our margins. We buy huge houses when we could live in smaller ones and so our bills stack up and the time spent cleaning becomes unreasonable. We put our kids in so many activities that we don’t have any time to just sit down and do nothing as a family. We allow friends, family, and even (at times) our church communities to walk all over us because we can’t seem to say “no” to anything. All of these things mean that we become people who aren’t living the way we were created to live–with breathing room.
And then sometimes we feel stressed or anxious not because our schedules are necessarily too busy, but because we’re not spending the time we do have well. We never think about what to make for dinner until it’s 5:30 and we put on the spaghetti and brown the meat and then realize we have no spaghetti sauce. We don’t remember to make the kids’ lunches until minutes before the school bus comes. We don’t like cleaning, so the house is always a mess. Living with disorganization can also be a huge source of stress–but again, that stress is simply a warning sign that something deeper is wrong.
Or what if we’re super stressed because our children don’t behave? Or don’t eat well? Or don’t sleep? Sometimes there’s honestly nothing you can do about that, but often there are strategies that can help kids eat better, sleep better, and behave better, but we don’t know them, haven’t tried them, or don’t believe they’ll work. So instead we live in constant exhaustion, frustration, and chaos. That’s going to cause stress, too!
And when we’re stressed, we tend to take it out on our spouse.
When you feel stress and anxiety, you’ll often lash out at the person closest to you. Because of that, you’ll start feeling as if you have a marriage problem. We’re not getting along! We’re not having sex. We’re always fighting. But again, what if the root problem isn’t a marriage one at all? What if that relational problem is another warning sign that there’s something else wrong?
So how about an exercise to help you identify the sources of stress and anxiety in your marriage?
Every week I want to give you a To Love, Honor and Vacuum marriage challenge–something super quick that you can do as a couple that can help bring you closer together. Today I’m going to give you both a challenge and a tool to help you with that challenge! This week’s challenge is about figuring out where you need to pare down so you can find some of that breathing room again:
Your Weekly TLHV Marriage Challenge
Identify sources of annoyance, frustration, anger, or stress over the last week–and brainstorm ways to reduce it!
On your own, jot down different things that have stressed you out in the past week, rating them from 1-5, with 1 being only a little bit stressful to 5 being really bad.
Now compare lists, and together, give each of these items a second score based on how easy they are to do something about, with 1 being hardest and 5 being easiest. Add up your scores, and choose the 1-2 items with the highest score. Brainstorm ways to address this together.
Basically, in this challenge I’m asking you to have a marriage meeting–to sit down, talk about something, and make a plan to do something about that.
Well, I’ve just discovered a new app that can help you have those very marriage meetings–plus a whole lot more!
I’ve been talking for over a year about the absolutely amazing Ultimate Intimacy app, an app for married couples to help them work on their sex life. As I’ve said repeatedly, it’s the app I would have designed if I had ever gotten around to it, but now I don’t have to because they’ve already done it! And I keep getting emails and comments out of the blue! One woman said:
“We burst out the Ultimate Intimacy App. (Thank you for that suggestion! We we’re both very surprised and very pleased at how much fun it is, and it wasn’t awkward!)”
Well, now the same people who designed that app have designed another one, geared at growing your marriage. Get Your Marriage On is like a marriage toolbox for those who don’t have time to go to marriage counseling, but who want a fun way to connect, work on their relationship, brainstorm, get on the same page, and grow together.
Daniel, who created it, told me, “If we had a tag line, it would be: The Marriage Counseling App that is Fast, Fun and NEVER BORING!”
Frankly, we could all use a tune up time to time. And this app aims to make working on your marriage NOT BORING and lots of fun!
It’s very different than the Ultimate Intimacy app. The UI app is primarily designed to make lovemaking fun. The Get Your Marriage On! app is about teaching the principles that make marriage work in a fun and interactive format. The app covers topics such as communication, in-laws, resolving conflict, understanding love languages, and of course sex & intimacy.
There are quizzes and games and you can sync it with your spouse for the tools that are built in, such as marriage meeting planners, a shared vision board, and so on…. and best of all, it’s 100% video based (over 60), taught by experts in their fields.
When I was exploring their app, I listened to the video introducing the concept of “Marriage Meetings”, and started laughing, because he was saying all the things that we were putting in this post!
When they do surveys, they find one consistent theme: Everybody says they want peace, but everyone says they feel stressed.
Life is too busy. It’s too complicated. And when that happens, it’s all too easy to drift into roommate status, where you live together & pay the bills together, but that’s it.
But you didn’t get married to settle for that! You want deep connection, romance, to be attracted to each other. You want all of that amidst the stress.
So the app helps you walk through what a quick Marriage Meeting can look like–the kind of meeting where you can do this challenge. Short videos teach you how the Marriage Meeting part of the app works, and why you need a marriage meeting.
Then you can plan your own agenda, sync with your spouse, and have that meeting! They’ve even got pre-made meetings on a variety of topics:
You can each grab the app and sync it to each other, so you can make notes that the other can see (you can even do this challenge in the app!). And the app has a vision board that will help you clarify what it is that you’re working towards, too, so that it’s easier to leave behind the things that are causing you stress.
Of course, the app also helps you discover each other’s love languages, figure out your sex issues, and even walks you through difficult conversations so you can resolve conflict.
Play Strip Battleship! Learn foreplay techniques. Take a love language quiz. And it’s got some awesome conversation starters, too.
There’s a free version of the app, but the paid version lets you sync with your spouse, gets access to a lot more videos, and more.
Explore the Get Your Marriage On app, and even use it for this challenge! Walk through the marriage meeting ideas, and learn how to plan frequent but short meetings to address real issues, so that you CAN reduce the stress in your marriage.
It’s time to Get Your Marriage On! And keep the stress and anxiety at bay.
Using something like Get Your Marriage On can ensure that you keep those lines of communication open, and that you have those conversations you need to have.
So I encourage you: Take the challenge this week. Identify your sources of stress. And then make plans to deal with them. Because it’s not always a marriage issue! Sometimes life is just tough, and we need to tackle it in a different way.
What do you think? Does outside stress contribute to your marriage stress? What are some of the big things causing you stress and anxiety? Let’s talk in the comments!