I personally believe that marriage is a gift given to two imperfect individuals so they can share perfect moments together. My husband and I recently celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary. We went to the concert of one of our favorite bands and had a nice time reminiscing our so-called “perfect moments” through the years. It actually felt like we were going out for the first time, just having fun and enjoying each other’s company. For a moment, we were two best of friends sharing one life together.
It was definitely far from how we were days before our anniversary. We were arguing a lot, stressed out over every little thing, be it working out our schedules, finances, house chores, parenting… we were definitely getting into each other’s nerves. But spending quality time – just the two of us – was exactly what we needed to de-stress our married life and it benefited us both. It suddenly felt like we were newlyweds once again!
It’s probably difficult to imagine at times how married life can be so happy and “rosy” one minute, only to turn into a battlefield the next day. It’s difficult enough to make a relationship between two different, imperfect individuals work, but with so much more to building a life together – raising children, managing finances, balancing work and home, in-laws, personal responsibilities - marriage can be extremely stressful.
Here are 10 ways to de-stress, be a better spouse, and enjoy a happy marital relationship:
1. Identify your “stress-trigger”. What is it exactly that’s making you stressed? Is it the children? Pressure in the workplace? Money matters? Or is it how your partner relates with you? …
Identify the specific cause of your stress and work towards resolving it, instead of just getting temporary relief from it. Not knowing what is making your life stressful will only make you more frustrated, depressed, and tired all the time mainly because the real problem is not being addressed.
In the same way, avoid “sweating the small stuff”, so to speak. There are times when we tend to focus so much on every little thing until issues begin to pile up, making it too much to handle. Sometimes your stress-trigger may be coming from little things that you unnecessarily worry too much about.
2. Put the 3Fs in your married life (FUN, FRIENDSHIP, FAITH) Though realities and situations may be more serious and demanding in married life, we should never take the fun away from it. Whenever there’s a chance, do the things you used to do with your spouse when you were still dating, like watching a concert, movie date, out of town trips or even simple romantic acts like writing a love letter, playing your theme song, or browsing through your old photos. Think of all the fun things you love to talk about or do together.
Be your spouse’s best friend. Friendship is the strong foundation any relationship could have. Talk like friends, act like friends and share problems and concerns as friends. Deepen your friendship and confidence in one another so that when things get too tough for you to handle, you know you have a friend you can depend on 24/7.
Build up your faith and trust that both of you desire only the best for your life together and as a family. Support each other’s decisions no matter what. Believe that whatever you may be going through are temporary and that together you can make things work.
3. Explore new things together as a couple and as a family. Make time for yourself as a couple and a separate time with the kids.
Start by making a couple “bucket list,” taking note of the things you both wish to do together and aim to accomplish it. These could be places you wish to visit, hobbies you wish to pursue, food you want to try, etc.
Set another day as well for activities with the entire family, like taking the kids to your favorite childhood hangouts or the zoo or even a picnic. Engage in recreational activities together. Spend a weekend at home playing family board games.
No matter what you decide to do, the idea is to have opportunities to strengthen your bond as a couple and as a family.
4. Respect each other’s private space. It is important to acknowledge that we all need time for ourselves as well.
Do not take it against your partner if there are times when he would ask to have quiet time at home or if he wishes to catch up with his bowling buddies. Support your spouse in pursuing his personal passion and hobbies.
Talk about the things you love doing on your own as well so you can understand each other’s needs. Do make sure however, that you do not neglect each other’s needs in your desire to have privacy. There should always be that assurance that no matter what, you will be there for your partner when he needs you the most.
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5. Live within your means. Simplify your lifestyle as a family and as individuals. Avoid financial stress by living simply and within your means. Work out a family budget together with your spouse. Identify your priorities, needs and wants. Make sure to pay your bills on time, set aside your savings and work on what you have left for other basic needs. As much as possible, make it a habit not to use your credit card.
Teach your children early on in appreciating simple gifts and pleasures and the value of saving up.
Of course, simplifying doesn’t mean that you deprive yourself and your family of enjoying some perks in life. Occasionally, you can reward yourself with the things you wish to buy and treat your children or spouse to something special. But do make sure that this will not affect your financial accountabilities and savings.
6. Understand how you and your partner react to stress. We each have our own way of managing or even succumbing to stress. Some can be extremely moody and irritable. Others would prefer to be left on their own. Some are more demanding of their partner’s care and attention, while others simply need a listening ear.
It is important to know and understand how you and your spouse react to certain situations. This way, it would help you both to know how to best support each other.
Try not to overreact when your partner suddenly acts differently or negatively towards you. Understand that it’s really not about you but it’s just a reaction to stress. Rather than getting upset or taking it personally against him, give him time to unwind and focus on how you can help. Make your partner aware of your emotional needs as well when you start to react to stress.
7. Release your stress before it can cause major distress in your marriage. Communication is important in dealing with any issue that might be causing you to feel irritated, pressured or depressed. No matter how difficult, stick to discussing only the PRESENT issues. It’s important to talk about things as they happen rather than keeping your anger or frustration for a long time that it soon becomes a long list of negativity against your partner.
Not being able to release your stress can put a strain in your relationship and once you have reached your limitations, it can cause major damage in your marriage. Talking about your issues will be healthier when you are not stressed. It allows you to think with a clear mind and be in control of your emotions.
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8. Strengthen your partnership. Marriage is a partnership. Share your burdens with your spouse and together and work out ways to handle them. Be humble enough to express what you can still manage to do and what are becoming too much for you to handle. Discuss ways to share responsibilities and when to delegate. Work together and not against each other in dealing with your marital problems and concerns
9. Be physically intimate. Be affectionate with your partner. A comforting hug, a cuddle, offering a shoulder and back massage… these are just some physical ways to help each other de-stress.
Avoid talking about your worries and concerns when intimate. Don’t let stress affect your sexual relationship as well. Spend time just feeling relaxed in the comfort of one another’s presence.
10. Switch off your work mode at home. Manage your work hours well to avoid bringing your work home with you. As much as possible, leave your work concerns in the confines of your office.
Get as much rest and relaxation as you can when you get home. Try to be home for dinner and spend a quality mealtime together as a family.
These days, it’s common for husbands and wives to simply decide to give up on their marriage just because they’re too stressed to work things out. Though recent studies show that stress is indeed one of the major causes of marital problems, the good news is that it can be managed. On our own, it can be tough, but together, spouses can enjoy the benefits of marital bliss if they are able to help each other cope with stress.
Sources: Top 10 Causes of Marital Problems by Cathy Mayer, About.com, Divorce Support Simple Principles for a Happy and Healthy Marriage by Alex A. Lluch