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Handling Stress and Managing it Effectively in Marriage

What happens when couples handle stress differently? Often, it can end up in additional stress on the marriage, including unhealthy arguments. Our natural stress response is often learned in childhood and carries into our adult lives. There are many ways to handle stress, and learning how to manage stress as a couple is key to a successful marriage.

Here is an example of one couple’s conversation related to the issue of managing stress:

STEP ONE: How do we define our issue?   

We need to work on handling stress more constructively around each other.

STEP TWO: Why is this important to me/us?

Bride:  I worry that our stress will make each other even more stressed and unhappy. We also lose motivation to handle situations when we’re stressed. We deal with stress very differently and that can affect our communication, especially if the way we deal with it is unhealthy. We need to communicate more openly and actively and work together to remove the stressor.

Groom:  When I lash out because of my stress, I feel distant from you. It makes me feel like I can’t confide in you. We should be able to lessen each other’s burden, not increase it. It attacks our foundation since stress is a part of everyday life. I hope our stress will lessen after the wedding, but I realize now that we can’t wait. We have to act. We need to be healthier with our communication

Bride’s Feelings:  hopeful, fed-up, tense, depressed, frustrated and overwhelmed

Groom’s Feelings: sad, fed-up, guilty, ignored, tense, tired, depressed, weak, threatened, frustrated, annoyed, negative, overwhelmed, alone, isolated, misunderstood

STEP THREE: What will a better future look like for us when this is resolved?

Bride: I think you will be more happy, open and cheerful and I will be more proud and motivated. We could follow a cleaning schedule and reorganize things and put things away. We could both be the one to do the dishes if we’re not the one cooking. We need to keep the coffee table clean and make a spot for recycling.

Groom: I will feel a lot better, like a more positive force in our relationship and like a better partner. I will appreciate you more deeply and be more open. We might set up cleaning routines and work to maintain cleanliness. We also need to remember to keep things in perspective. We need to both stick to routines, but we also need to be flexible. Maybe have a list of chores that we have to check off each day, because our stress lessens when it’s cleaner. We could use more storage bins. Sorting and getting rid of things. Spending 10 minutes each night tidying.

STEP FOUR: What are our best ideas?

Idea One:   Develop cleaning routines

Idea Two:  Devote ten minutes each night to tidying.

STEP FIVE: What will I/we actually do?

Bride: I will create a place for everything, so tidying is straight forward and nothing gets lost. We will follow the routine and keep each other accountable.

Groom: I will develop routines for us to follow. We do better with lists. I will also work with you to declutter our space. We’ll follow the routine and hold each other accountable.

STEP SIX: How will we know that we’re making progress?

The apartment will stay clean and neat on a regular basis.