I wrote half of this blog before Waco felt a swift kick in the stomach from snow. It’s the Monday after our week of wicked weather and I feel like I have been kicked in the stomach myself. Before last week, we had sickness in our family and relational stress outside our home. We tried to thrive in the midst of having no running water for a week, but most of us smelled. All of that was on top of my husband working a full-time job, going to school full-time and our everyday life with 8 kids under the age of 10.
Most marriages these days are under a ridiculous amount of stress. It is the reality of our times. As much as I would like it to differ, I don’t think it is helpful to tell you how to avoid stress. Even in a perfect scenario, most individuals are processing internal stress to some degree or another. Nowadays it feels like we have to learn how to deal with stress or even better, thrive in the midst of it.
Marriage is one of those things that takes constant tweaking. In stressful situations, it is easy to look at your spouse and say “This is all your fault!” I mean, why not blame someone else? Whether it’s a broken washing machine, a sick child that threw up (and your husband fed him something he wasn’t supposed to have) or a messed up schedule, there are constantly situations that squeeze the stress right out of us.
The main thing I remember from a ton of premarital counseling was “Your spouse is not your enemy.” When any situation hits the fan, I try to take one step back and remind myself of this before I proceed. I usually want to jump in the ring and start swinging with my words, but if I can check myself and see what the bigger picture is – we are less likely to have mean words.
When it’s stressful, there might be a million things I want to say to my husband and communication is key. Every now and then my husband is gifted with a good tear fest and it gets mixed with anger (not even toward him), exhaustion and a bit of confusion. By the end of the cry he looks at me with a blank face and it reads something like “So would you like me to just listen or help you?” I’ve learned that he can’t translate my cry fests. I need to do a little prep work in my heart before I drop emotional bombs on him. I don’t need to have it all figured out, but if I take some time to process beforehand then our conversations go a million times better.
Effective communication looks different for every marriage. My husband would love it if I just came to him and said “I need you tonight at 8:00 — be there for quality time.” But I would rather verbally process a slew of random needs, thoughts and emotions that get me to an 8:00 date. Learning how your spouse processes emotions and communicates them is a helpful tool when it comes to stressful situations. Study your spouse and see how they handle stress. Remember that when the next situation arises!
We have moved 12 times in 12 years of marriage. I have always been pregnant, postpartum or nursing a baby in these moves. My husband likes to just throw everything in the boxes and hope it arrives unscathed. I prefer to organize it a zillion times, properly wrap every item and have clean bins waiting upon arrival. Let’s just say none of our moves have gone exactly how either of us prefer. We have learned to laugh a lot!! These types of stressful situations will test your marriage. Try to adjust, compromise and let the small stuff go!
Let’s face it – even bedtime routines can be a source of stress. There have been a night or two when I have 6 kids in the tub, a crying baby and I’m sending my oldest out into the pasture to find my husband. Somehow he thought right then would be a perfect time to put the animals up. We have learned that giving a head’s up to one another goes a long way in our house. We are a team — constantly learning to work better with one another. Stress refines us, reveals our weaknesses and instead of turning against one another, we are forced to lean on one another.
Parenting little children, managing in-laws, making time for intimacy, taking care of individual needs — the list of marriage stressors is endless. Handle each one aiming to put your marriage first. Our marriage should be a haven for our spouse. We each face enough hardships on our own, the goal is to make the marriage relationship a place of security. The storms may be hurling wind and rain, but we have one another. Communicate, compromise and give grace where you can. Don’t let stress erode your joy and friendship — you marriage will thank you!