Handling Stress In Your Relationship
Stress! Stress in marriage as well as in life is inevitable. Positive pressure is sometimes called “eustress,” while negative stress can be called “distress.” When we talk about stress, it is the negative stress that we refer to most of the time. Negative stress can cause sleepless nights, health issues such as high blood pressure, headaches, ulcers, and frequent arguments over “nothing” in your relationships. You may also experience a breakdown of communication, disconnection and isolation, and lack of intimacy. In a stress-filled relationship, couples can fail to validate each other or meet each other’s needs. Your individual stressors and how you handle them affect your relationship with your spouse.
Reflection: Are you experiencing any of the effects mentioned above of stress in your relationship? Which one(s)? What other negative results of stress are you experiencing?
How you deal with stress in your relationship depends on how you deal with life’s stressors individually. Each of us brings our own set of stressors to the relationship, which adds to the ordinary and usual stressors of the marriage.
Reflection: Make a list of the top stressors in your own life:
These could include lack of exercise, feeling overweight, debt, lack of time, health issues, pregnancy or parenting issues, fertility issues, work stress, exhaustion, in-laws, sexual frustration, miscommunication, hurt feelings, unresolved issues, wedding stress, etc.
Handling Your Stress
- Know who you are. A confused identity causes stress. This can be particularly true in your relationship if you don’t know who you really are and you don’t know who your spouse really is. It is sad to see a relationship in which both parties pretend to be someone they are not in an attempt to be loved and accepted! When you don’t know who you are, you will try to be something or somebody that you are not. That is incredibly stressful. Knowing who you are frees you to be yourself, which frees you from so much stress and anxiety. Not only do you know who you are as an individual, but you will also know who you are in all of your relationships. This is especially critical in your partner relationship. You will be able to say, “This is who I am and who God made me to be. I’m not changing that to be loved or accepted by another person.”
- Know whose approval you are seeking. Attempting to try to please others is a source of great stress. Are you still seeking the approval of an unpleasable parent? Do you need others in your social circle to think highly of you, and so you expend time, effort, and money to fit in? We love to blame other people for our stress. We love to blame other people saying, “I have to do this, I must do this, I’ve got to do this, I should do this….” The fact is nobody’s holding a gun to your head. Nobody’s forcing you to do anything. ALERT! No one can pressure you without your permission. If you’re being pressured by somebody, it’s because you’re choosing to allow their approval or rejection of you to control you. This person could be your spouse, and, if so, you will be continually stressed in the relationship.
- Know your purpose. Do you feel that you are fulfilling your life’s calling and purpose? It doesn’t have to be to cure cancer or build an empire. Whatever you can do to benefit others and make the world a better place is purpose. If you live with no sense of purpose or meaning, you will most likely feel restless and stressed. Others will try to tell you what you should be doing with your life. They could be well-intentioned, but if you try to live the purpose that they give you, you will be stressed and even depressed because it’s not you. You do you!
- Focus on what matters. Don’t get distracted by what doesn’t matter. So much of what doesn’t matter is the source of unnecessary stress. We (Jeani and I) have friends who have made it their purpose to use their home as a refuge for all people, especially broken and hurting people. Everyone is welcome. The husband has a saying that brings focus to what matters most: “If you are coming to see my house, make an appointment. If you are coming to see us, come anytime!” Although their home suffered extensive damage from a hurricane, it remained open to all. Many others would have used the excuse of the condition of the house to not have guests. The message is clear: People, not property, matter most! Consider what matters most. Pride can often be the source of much of our stress – pride in physical appearance, property, accomplishments, etc.
- Cultivate your spiritual life. Learning to meditate and pray is a great way to manage your stress and focus on what matters. It quietens your spirit and calms you. You become able to live from the inside out so that, no matter what is going on around you, you are centered and grounded.
- Do life with a group. You were never intended to live life isolated from other people or other couples. You were never meant to handle stress all by yourself. A group of friends can bring comfort, support, fun, encouragement, and so much more to your life and your relationship. Having friends, you can call on for help can decrease the stress of a situation or crisis in your life. Trying to do it all yourself because you are too insecure or prideful to ask for help can increase your stress level.
- Take time to recharge. Your body, soul, and spirit need rest and relaxation. When you push yourself beyond your limits and don’t take time to refuel and recharge, you suffer, and so does your relationship. Your relationship needs fun, romance, and “downtime.” Every day spend at least a few minutes reconnecting and relaxing with your partner, even if It’s just sitting on the couch and sharing about your day. Date night once a week is vital to managing stress for you both. Once every two or three months, plan an overnight getaway so that you can get away from your current stressors and focus on each other. And once a year, take a vacation with just the two of you. Investing in your relationship by attending a marriage seminar or marriage retreat can help strengthen your connection and reduce your stress as well. Remember, your life and your relationship are to be enjoyed – not just endured!