Every relationship is stressful. What matters is how you DEAL with it.
Couples across cultures and continents — of all races and religions, economics and demographics — experience the same human emotion when faced with relationship challenges and marriage problems.
It feels like nothing ever gets resolved, the dance just keeps repeating itself.
It’s a merry-go-round of pain, misunderstanding, hurtful words and blame that gets uglier with each turn of the wheel.
In order to learn to cope with relationship stress, it’s crucial to identify your biggest source of stress. Take your pick: depression by one or both partners, long-term illness, work stress, money stress, problems with children, addictions, blended families, co-parenting issues like not being unified in your parenting style … these types of long-term stress can seem all-consuming at times.
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And chronic stress can have serious consequences, causing physical symptoms (backache, headache), emotional upset (anxiety, anger), or relationship disconnect or conflict.
Another very common, yet significant, issue for couples is the difference in their core values.
When you first met him, he seemed so interesting and enticing (they do say opposites attract), but after the initial period of infatuation and romance faded, the differences created a disconnect between each of your core values in areas like education, how to raise your children, traveling, money management, marital roles and responsibilities, religion, and more.
These are BIG ticket items when it comes to maintaining a long-term marriage with someone: honesty, trust, and communication.
These shared core values are the equalizer to a stronger, happier, healthy marriage.
Here are a few quick tips to help you help you identify whether you have these shared core values BEFORE you marry him (more info later in the article for what to do if you’re already committed).
Be sure that the two of you have had a few deep conversations before you have sex. Understand his values, behaviors, and approach to life. This will speak volumes to you as you start deciphering if he’s the right guy. If he’s not the right match for you, the sex will not seem as imminent.
Notice the red flags! Think back to some warning signs you may have picked up on but perhaps ignored, thinking he would change over time.
Don’t marry him to change him! Remember — what you see is what you get.
Regardless of which problem is the most common for you and your partner to argue about, you’re not alone!
The underlying foundation for most common problems is how each of you deals with your own feelings of anxiety while also dealing with your partner’s feelings of frustration or painful silence.
What makes it complicated for couples is how you communicate about your hot-button issues.
You worry that you when you’re ready to finally talk, he won’t be.
You wonder what to do when he says: “Let’s talk.” But then he does all the talking!
Your biggest fear is that too much time will have passed and when you finally talk, it erupts into a yelling match or complete silence and awkwardness for days, until one of you decides to speak first.
A few things to remember, to help take some of the stress out of tough conversations:
Talking is always better than not talking about it!
How you talk is just as important. Do it when you’re alone and uninterrupted, rested and calm, focused and caring.
At the outset, announce your intentions to make it a dialogue so that each of you speaks and listens to each other with respect.
Secrets, sex, or money (or secrets, sex, AND money?) — the most common sources of stress in marriages.
More often, it’s usually secrets about sex and money! According to one study, 33% of people admitted to lying to their spouses about finances with an estimated 7 million Americans reporting that they are hiding a secret bank account.
In one poll, over 1000 U.S. adults self-reported that personal financial concerns were the number one stressor!
Notably, our society is increasingly more stressed out than it was 6 months ago or even 5 years ago! So, if stress isn’t going anywhere, then what can you do about it?
Secrets are insidious and can be a dangerous slippery slope that starts with a small detail you leave out when talking about your day, to a white lie about how much you really spent at the store. Over time, it becomes a habit, and like any habit, the lie grows bigger and wider until you feel like your life is out of control!
If you’re lying or withholding information from your spouse, life can spin between fear, guilt, shame, resentment, and justification for what you did (and why you did it).
Then you do it all over again.
At this point, you’re numb and the only thing you feel is exhausted and alone. You’re alone in this marriage with a partner who does not know you and you don’t know how to change it.
If you find yourself living a lie with your spouse, it is vital that you take steps towards healing that gap — even if you have to reach out to a relationship professional or your pastor. Don’t delay!
If your marriage is in trouble, it probably looks like a big mountain of issues from where you’re standing.
As a first step, you have to decide to begin changing the pattern of communication between the two of you.
So, reach out to him in kindness. Manage a calm demeanor and ask him when he’s available to sit and talk, just the two of you without interruption (not late at night, not after drinks, and always turn off cell phones).
It’s best when you are rested and fresh.
Once the two of you have figured out your sources of marriage stress and have made a plan to communicate, you can do the real work of addressing your marriage problems.
Here are seven concrete (and simple) steps to improving your stressful relationship:
1. Make Up Your Mind Right Now to Cope Differently.
Change your mindset from worried and negative (or angry and grumpy) to hopeful, determined and positive!
Be brave and look directly at the problem.Try this technique:
Talk to yourself about the problem the same way your best friend would talk to you about the problem! Your best friend would be patient, supportive, and caring. Your best friend would be your cheerleader and tell you that you can do this and how you will get through this successfully!
2. Relax, Breathe and Start Calmly.
Remember this is your chance to be his best friend and to support him throughout the conversation so that together you successfully get thru the more difficult parts of the conversation with a loving attitude .
3. Let Go.
This is about forgiving yourself — and each other — for past actions, and moving forward in a dedicated goal towards healing the problem and eliminating the stress in your relationship.
4. Work as a Team.
Ask for your partner’s help so that each of you own your part of the process.
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5. Start Small and Work Your Way Up.
Start with small incremental steps, and when you are successful, move to intermediate steps. Then, once you have some success together under your belt, tackle larger steps to finalize success.
Decide on which stressor you’re going to deal with, name the stressor, define it, then work together to eliminate it!
Break the problem down into user-friendly steps by communicating clearly to ensure understanding between the two of you.
Example: You can pay off one bill or all the bills, get a new job, telecommute, instead of commuting long distances, come home early one night a week for family dinner (or date night). Identify together your number one stressor that is negatively impacting your marriage.
6. Appreciate What You Have.
Visualize your life without the stressor and talk to each other a for a few moments about what that would look like and how it would feel.
This is a very powerful tool towards positive change. Share the fantasy!
7. Schedule Weekly Check-Ins.
Make it a weekly conversation so that you can “check in” with each other to see how it’s going and make adjustments as needed.
In this way, it will become fluid rather than rigid. It will be collaborative and voluntary rather than dictated or demanded.
In summary, there is hope for resolving the stresses in your relationship.
Try to remember that true intimacy is about sharing thoughts feelings and behaviors. And honesty begins with sharing your how you feel with your spouse. Now you have the skills and tools to help you communicate, honestly, and move your marriage or relationship forward.