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Do you want to knock your spouse off their feet? Want your spouse to want more sex without even saying the word “sex”? Wanna keep a smile on your spouse’s face and have them bragging about you to others? The secret (drumroll, please): Generosity. Overwhelm them with generosity

Generosity in marriage is quite underrated. But researchers have shown that when couples focus on generosity instead of fairness, their marriages tend to be more fulfilling.

Here are some practical ways to show generosity to your partner.

Ask what makes them feel special. 

Don’t assume you know. Ask questions like: When do you feel most loved? What makes you feel appreciated? What challenges are you facing right now? How they answer will help you show generosity in ways that say you know them. These aren’t one-time questions. You might ask every few months. Situations and circumstances change—challenges and needs for appreciation change. 

Observe and Do. Listen and Follow Through

Study your spouse to find ways they like to feel appreciated or ways to help relieve stress. Look for things causing stress. Observe what’s pulling at their time and energy. Listen to what they’re complaining about. Don’t think about what your spouse can do for you. Focus on learning what you can do for your spouse. We can give you great ideas. Your spouse can give you better ones without even realizing it.

Keep Score. 

Researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says, “Trade a sense of entitlement for a sense of indebtedness.” She suggests that you can cultivate generosity in your marriage by keeping track of your spouse’s needs and doing those things for them. Make it your mission to outdo your spouse with generosity. How many needs can you notice and meet? Make a game out of it. See who can do the most little things to show generosity. 

Get Your Marriage Degree in the Little Things. 

It’s the little things that make the difference. 

  • Brew a cup of coffee and set it next to them so they smell it when they wake up. 
  • Give spontaneous compliments without expecting anything in return. 
  • Buy them their favorite little treat when you run in the store. 
  • Be their biggest cheerleader for work and extracurricular projects. 
  • Give them the night off while you put the kids to bed. Have the kids give your spouse a hug and kiss and then go quietly to bed themselves. 
  • Drop a surprise note on their driver’s seat so they’ll see it when leaving for work.
  • Text them before a work presentation.

Develop Unending T.E.A. Time (Tirelessly Expressing Appreciation). Make a habit of saying, 

  • “Thank you for…” 
  • “I appreciate you for doing…” 
  • “I’m proud of you.” 
  • “You were great when…”

Initiate discussion on sharing household chores. 

Admittedly, this is better for those who may naturally do fewer tasks at home. Anyway, being generous with your time in areas that aren’t necessarily as “enjoyable” for you is always good for your relationship

Be generous with a smile. 

Let your joy come from your spouse being loved and having needs met, not from what you are doing for them. Doing freely for your spouse without expecting anything in return is the essence of generosity in marriage.

Forgive.

It’s pretty hard to be generous when you’re holding on to resentment or unforgiveness. Forgiveness helps you to love as much as it helps your spouse to feel loved by you.

Perhaps you have some more ideas on ways to be generous in your marriage. If you do, please send them to us! We’d love to spread the word and help other couples increase their marital happiness through abundant generosity. 

In the meantime, keep giving generously and watch what happens in your relationship.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Trust is the foundation of a healthy marriage. It’s like oil in a car engine, heat in an oven, Beyoncé in Destiny’s Child. Without it, things just don’t work well. 

Ideally, marital trust should grow with time. It’s a glue in your relationship that ought to get stronger, even though it isn’t always the case. Trust can rust. 

The good news is you can strengthen that glue. 

We all have the power to value or devalue a marriage, to help or hurt our spouse’s well-being. Think about it: the next words I choose to say to my wife can either make her smile or cry or make her just plain mad. I’ve got that power. (So does she.) And my words will make me look more or less trustworthy in her eyes.

A big part of increasing trust in marriage is channeling that power to be beneficial and to do that often. 

Want to increase trust in your marriage? Here are 7 ways to amp it up!

1. Extend Forgiveness

Forgiveness goes a long way. It means you’ve decided to work through negative emotions, that you’ve let go of the need to “get even.” Forgiving your spouse shows you’re willing to recognize they are human. Which, in turn, takes the pressure off having to be perfect for you. And it shows you can be trusted to not keep score of wrongdoings and that you are committed to trust again after a fallout. 

2. Uphold Boundaries

Maybe the idea of boundaries seems limiting to you. But when it comes to building trust, it’s quite the opposite. Healthy boundaries can keep you both on the same page. How you decide to navigate social media. What you view online. Friendships (particularly with the opposite sex). Resolving conflict. Spending leisure time. Dividing up chores. Handling these and other issues well can increase trust.

3. Express Humility

Humility is simply an accurate view of the self, both the good and the bad. You express humility when you use your power to build your spouse up instead of yourself or ask for forgiveness. And research suggests that humility is associated with greater trust and marriage satisfaction. 

4. Exercise Vulnerability

Brené Brown says vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and exposure. It’s being fully seen, warts and all. Research says trust arises when risk is involved. In other words, you’ve got the power to either affirm or attack each other’s vulnerable spots. The more you show vulnerability in your marriage and affirm your spouse’s openness, the stronger the trust. 

5. Practice Reliability

Your trustworthiness is also affected by how well your spouse perceives your follow-through. Do you follow up with people, complete projects, see your goals to the end? Keep your commitments? Have you ever given your spouse cause to doubt your reliability? When your spouse sees you as reliable, it builds more trust. 

6. Show Self-Control

The same idea goes for your spouse’s perception of your self-control. Do you typically keep your cool? Choose your words calmly and carefully? Keep your moral integrity intact? Do you try to respond in helpful ways, even if it’s tough or costly? These are all signs of self-control that build trustworthiness between you two.

7. Develop Confidence in Your Spouse

Author and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn says that couples who believe the best about each other have high marital satisfaction. Even during conflict, both acknowledge they’re on the same team. And no matter what, their spouse has their back. This kind of confidence boosts the marital trust factor.

The bottom line is, powerful trust makes for a powerful marriage. Share your intentions with your spouse. Begin working on one or two of these tried-and-true trust practices this week. Trust is key. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

You know that couple. The one who has been married for many years and seems just as madly in love today as when they said, “I do.” You know who I’m talking about. Do you ever sit back and ask yourself how they do it? I do. If you could sit down and talk to them, you might be surprised if they told you that it takes more than love. That kind of love takes effort. It takes intentionality. But there is one other component present… generosity. 

What is generosity in marriage?

The National Marriage Project defines marital generosity as “the virtue of giving good things to one’s spouse freely and abundantly.” It’s giving without expecting anything in return. Giving with no strings attached. Their survey of 1,365 married couples explains that generosity is small acts of kindness, displays of respect and affection, and a willingness to forgive each other’s faults.

This doesn’t mean we view marriage as 50/50. If you’re married, you know you have to give way more than 50%. You’re all in. 

It means that we give generously, not to receive. It’s giving without expectation. Maybe that means you go above and beyond with the household chores. When your spouse has a rough day or a work deadline, you take on more responsibility around the house. You don’t expect them to repay you. Your actions are genuinely rooted in love.

According to Brad Wilcox, Director of the National Marriage Project, generosity in marriage is “signaling to your spouse that you know them, and are trying to do things for them that are consistent with your understanding of them.” 

Why generosity matters in marriage…

In an interview with the New York Times, Wilcox frames it this way: 

“In marriage, we are expected to do our fair share when it comes to housework, childcare and being faithful, but generosity is going above and beyond the ordinary expectations with small acts of service and making an extra effort to be affectionate. Living that spirit of generosity in a marriage does foster a virtuous cycle that leads to both spouses on average being happier in the marriage.”

Researchers found that spouses who show generosity view their marriage as more satisfying. These spouses were the ones who gave, not received, the acts of kindness and appreciation. When we shower our spouse with selfless acts, we’re more satisfied with our relationship. 

Does this mean that more generous spouses have a happier, more satisfying marriage? Is the secret being more generous? Maybe. It sure doesn’t hurt! 

Researchers did find a correlation between generosity and marital satisfaction, but they couldn’t pinpoint which came first. Does being more generous lead to more satisfaction? Or is it the other way around? 

I can’t answer that question (and they couldn’t either), but both are a good thing. What matters is that these spouses genuinely love and care for each other.

So, where do you go from here? 

You can express radical generosity toward your spouse. You don’t have to shower them with gifts or a trip to a tropical island. (Although, who doesn’t love both of those?) You can start today with small gestures. In marriage, it’s the little things that mean the most. Make their coffee. Send a text to show your appreciation. Show genuine affection. Forgive them. 

Ready to get started? Ask your spouse to finish this phrase: “I feel loved when you…” Then find ways to be generous in making them feel more loved than ever.

Great articles to help you be more generous with your spouse:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Communicate Better With Your Spouse

These six skills can transform your relationship.

What would the world be like without good communication? 

Airports would be a complete wreck (figuratively and literally). 

Kids couldn’t learn reading, writing, ’rithmetic, and computer coding. 

The barista at Starbucks would write a completely different name on my cup for my order. (Okay, well, that happens anyway.) 

Not to mention… marriage would be chaotic! 

Fortunately, communication in marriage isn’t some tricky thing that some people have, and some don’t. It’s a skill that you, me, and everyone else can practice and improve. 

Here are six of the most crucial skills you can use to communicate better with your spouse: 

1. Practice the art of listening well. 

Listening well means seeking to understand. It’s putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. 

Seek to understand their point of view. And know that just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. 

Repeat back to your spouse what you heard. This lets them confirm you heard them correctly or restate what they meant using other words. 

2. Ask lots of questions. 

The ultimate goal of healthy communication in marriage is to connect. Be curious for the sake of knowing your husband or wife better and how you can strengthen your relationship.

Ask questions to: 

  • Explore: What was it like growing up in your household?
  • Clarify: Am I right in saying you don’t like surprises because…? 
  • Draw out: Can you tell me more about how you feel when the barista gets your name wrong? 
  • Know how to be more compassionate: What can I do to help you feel more relaxed right now? 

Oh, and don’t forget to validate what you hear, even if it’s different from what you’d say! 

3. Go deeper in your communication. 

Communication can be shallow: My day was good. How was yours? I’m kinda tired. Tomorrow is Friday…

Nothin’ wrong with that. It’s just that way sometimes. But marriage can’t thrive in the shallow end of the pool; it has to take deeper dives. 

Your spouse is a complex person (in a good way!). So are you. The joy of marital communication is exploring and appreciating these complexities for what they are. 

And this takes deeper conversations about feelings, opinions, shortcomings, goals, hopes, needs, past experiences, and future dreams. 

4. Practice vulnerability.

Being vulnerable means showing more of who you are. Which means opening yourself up. And that takes trust, which is vital for a healthy marriage. 

Healthy communication is the treadmill that exercises the muscles of vulnerability. 

Showing vulnerability in deeper communication might be uncomfortable. Talk about that with your spouse. Why does it make you feel that way? What can your spouse do to help you feel more at ease and willing to be more vulnerable? 

Keep in mind that building trust through vulnerability requires affirming each other’s opinions—even if they’re different. Respect each other’s differences, and these kinds of conversations can totally help strengthen your relationship. 

5. Practice often.

Schedule times to talk and connect with each other on deeper levels, even if it’s for just a few minutes. The average couple communicates for only 20 minutes a week; choose not to be average. 

6. Learn to work through conflict well.

Disagreements are gonna happen. That’s part of marriage. But how you communicate through disagreements makes all the difference. And if you communicate better with your spouse, that’s a game-changer.

Attack the issue instead of each other. Be solution-driven. Remember, You. Are. A. Team. Establish your Rules to Fight Right: no name-calling, yelling, walking out on each other, bringing up past issues, etc. (You know what I’m talkin’ about.) 

(For more easy-to-use resources, check out How to Improve Bad Communication in Marriage and 6 Ways Poor Communication Can Affect Your Marriage.)

No matter what, remember communication is a process.  Learning communication skills doesn’t mean you’ll get it right all the time. 

Miscommunication will happen. Give yourselves a break and keep on truckin’ to better communicate with your spouse anyway. Look to these resources to practice: 4 Communication Exercises for Married Couples and 3 Great Dates to Enhance Communication in Marriage. Because working on healthy communication leads to a thriving marriage. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

What is “Romance” in Marriage?

Here's what you need to know about it.

The moonlit walks, late-night talks, candlelit dinners, flowers… it all spells romance. Or does it? These gestures may be romantic, but are they “romance”? What is “romance” in marriage, anyway?

Romance: What It Is

I’d like to offer you a different way to look at romance. Now, this may be new to you, or you may be like, of course, that’s what romance is. But, I personally haven’t always thought of romance in this way…  Romance is the ongoing mission of making your spouse feel special. Does that mean you are off the hook for flowers, gifts, dinner? Not exactly. 

So, where do I start?

How do I make my spouse feel special? Well, sorry to tell you but there is no one answer. To know what makes them feel special, you have to be a student of your spouse. Now, I don’t mean being a student like in school when you learned just enough to pass a test, then forgot it all the next day. (Please don’t have nightmares of the periodic table or trigonometry.)

Romance in marriage is a lifestyle. It’s not confined to one day in February, but it’s a daily choice to be selfless and put your spouse first. It’s intentional—and it’s not expecting anything in return.

You need to be a lifelong learner of your spouse. What does this mean? Start with these questions:

  • What do they enjoy? 
  • What do they desire? 
  • Their dreams? 
  • Makes them feel loved? 

It’s the little things as well as the big ones. Part of being a lifelong learner is discovery. Now that sounds fun!

We all have a burning desire to be seen, heard, and understood. You play a huge part in fulfilling this desire for your significant other.

So that sounds great and all, but let’s get practical. 

How do I romance my spouse? 

You’ve done your research. Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned. I mean, what good is knowledge if you can’t use it?

Maybe you get up every morning and prepare your spouse’s coffee or warm up their car. Perhaps you recognize they’ve had a rough day, so you prepare dinner or take care of chores around the house, not because they asked you but because you recognize that it will make their day easier. That’s romance!

Fellas, sitting and listening to your spouse, not interrupting or trying to fix everything, is romance. It shows your wife that you value her thoughts and emotions and genuinely care about what she has to say. 

Ladies, sitting with your husband and watching the big game or race, asking genuine questions, and seeking to understand what he is passionate about is romance. (Here’s Why It’s Important to Care About Your Spouse’s Interests.)

Now, those are general examples, but you get the picture. Romance is caring about what they care about.

I love to run. It brings me joy and relieves stress… yes, I said running brings joy, don’t judge me. My wife takes the time to ask me about my run. She listens, she encourages, she pushes me. She stood out in 30-degree weather holding signs of support for my first half-marathon. Now, that’s romance! I feel understood and loved by those actions.

Romance is showing your spouse that you see them and desire to know them more deeply. Become a lifelong learner of your spouse. If you’ve been married for several years and you feel like romance is missing, own it and make it a priority. 

If you need help knowing where to start, check out First Things First’s online experience Romance Your Mate. You’ll learn even more about what romance looks like and how to romance your spouse for a lifetime.

Commit to making romance central to your marriage! Start today.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

The Key Trait Found in All Happy Marriages

It's probably not what you think it is.

We search for the secret of a happy marriage like Jack Sparrow searching for the fountain of youth. If he could find the ever-elusive fountain, eternal youth would be his. It can be easy to view a happy marriage through the same lens. It seems elusive and out of reach. But it’s not! 

In fact, there just may be a key, a secret recipe, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. After examining 174 studies (whew, that’s a lot), researchers at the University of Rochester found a key trait of happy marriages. 

That trait is, drumroll, please… psychological flexibility! Wait, what?!?! (That’s me echoing how my 5-year-old would react!)

What is psychological flexibility?

According to the Journal of Behavioral Science, psychological flexibility is “a set of skills that individuals engage when presented with difficult or challenging thoughts, feelings, emotions, or experiences.”

Not to get too brainy, but it’s made up of six things. (Hang with me for a minute.)

  • Acceptance: Being open to all experiences, good or bad, no matter how challenging or difficult. (Maybe trying out that new hobby is a good thing!)
  • Contact with the present moment: Being mindful of day-to-day moments in life. Being present with your spouse in everyday conversations and experiences. Not fixated on the past or focused on the future.
  • Cognitive defusion: Being able to gently experience thoughts and emotions. This means thoughts and feelings don’t overwhelm you. You don’t immediately think the worst or overly stress out.
  • Self as context: The ability to see the bigger picture even in the face of difficult thoughts and feelings. You’re not the center of discussions or decisions. The focus is on the relationship as a whole.
  • Contact with values: Being rooted and grounded in a deeper set of values.
  • Committed action: Resiliency to continue moving forward.

So, what does all that mean? 

To break it down, psychologically flexible people are open to new experiences. Negative thoughts or feelings don’t hold them back. They maintain perspective. They keep moving toward their goals and don’t give up. And they understand their spouse does things differently, but they don’t let it frustrate them.

What does psychological flexibility look like in marriage?

According to the study, marriages with psychologically flexible spouses showed greater sexual satisfaction. Those marriages also showed more emotional support and less negative conflict. Focusing on the components of psychological flexibility improves marriage quality.

Psychological flexibility is within your reach. You have the power to develop it. Here’s how…

Think of it like yoga, except in a mental and emotional kinda way. Practicing yoga helps your body become more flexible, but it takes time. If you plan to start yoga, you’ll look for resources like online videos, a class, or a more experienced yoga practitioner—a yogi (that’s a fun word). You’ll seek someone who has experience and knowledge. You can cultivate psychological flexibility the same way. Find resources and books to help you fine-tune the skills. Do your due diligence and find a reputable source to guide you to where you want to be. (How to Actually Use Relationship Resources Without Getting Overwhelmed can help you out!)

Your marriage is the most important relationship.

Giving it your time, energy, and attention can help you create the happiness you’re looking for.

And if you have kids, you’ll be glad to know that many of these psychological flexibility skills are learned early (at least that’s what the researchers say). Practicing these skills in your marriage can help your kiddos reap the benefits, too.

So now you know, the key trait found in happy marriages is psychological flexibility. You also know what components make up psychological flexibility. Where will you start today to show flexibility in your marriage? You don’t have to tackle it all once… baby steps are all it takes to move forward.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

YOU CAN BE DEEPLY KNOWN AND DEEPLY KNOW YOUR SPOUSE!

Do you feel like your marriage is in the shallows? Listening well, vulnerability, and mutual respect are some of the hardest parts of marriage. But without them, your relationship may never thrive in the deep end. This online course will guide you and your spouse through the 5 simple steps to taking your marriage to the deep end – and help you stay there!

GET THE TOOLS YOU NEED TO TAKE YOUR MARRIAGE DEEPER.

INSIDE EACH MODULE YOU’LL FIND…

  • An Instructional Video hosted by marriage experts – Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison
  • 3-5 Couple Activities you can do on your own time, at your own pace
  • 3-5 Questions to Answer about your marriage together
  • A Downloadable Couple’s Guide filled with tips, insights, and ideas you can use to get to the deep end and stay there
  • PLUS, purchasing this course will give you exclusive access to Gena Ellis and Reggie Madison, so you can ask them your questions and reach out for any help you may need along the way!

What to Do When You Feel Disrespected in Marriage

These tips can help you find out what's really going on.

*This article does not refer to verbally or emotionally abusive behaviors. If you think you are a victim of marital abuse, immediately seek help from a local agency or call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 1.800.799.7233.

No one deserves to be disrespected. 

And it feels awful when someone disrespects you, especially the person you love the most. 

The bad news is we know that contempt and criticism increase the likelihood of marriages going sour. A marriage simply cannot thrive in an environment of disrespect. (Communication Killers has more on this.)

But there’s good news. Disrespectful behavior can change. Marriage can get stronger. And you can feel better about your spouse’s behavior.   

And here’s where we start. 

As I wrote in 4 Reasons Why Respect Matters in Marriage, respect is how you show genuine appreciation for another person. Respect is an action, not just a feeling. It’s a declaration of value for someone. We show respect by how we behave toward our mate. 

Before declaring your freedom from disrespect, it’s crucial to stop and reflect on what’s going on. Examining what you’re feeling helps you approach the problem in a healthier way. 

I find it helpful to dissect the disrespect. 

Separate the disrespectful behavior and the feeling it produced. I know you feel disrespected. But for a moment, view disrespect as merely your spouse’s behavior. 

Consider: I was disrespected when my spouse did or said… 

And then dig deeper: Their behavior made me feel… (angry, upset, incompetent, hurt, sad… but don’t use the word “disrespected.”) 

Separating the disrespectful thing they did from what you feel helps in a couple of ways. First, it helps you consider your spouse’s intention. 

People show disrespect for several reasons: 

  • They’re trying to cover insecurities
  • They don’t realize how their behavior affects others.
  • They let their anger get the best of them.
  • They’re just being a jerk on purpose. 

Now, I can work with the first three reasons. They don’t excuse the disrespect, but those obstacles have concrete solutions. And they give insight into my spouse’s intentions. 

The fourth reason, well, is a little more complicated. But I’m gonna make a huge assumption that you didn’t look deep into your spouse’s eyes on your wedding day, knowing they were a big jerk. 

And if you did (I’m not gonna judge), or if something happened and they just turned jerky one day, seeking help from a professional may be the best approach. 

Separating disrespectful behavior and the way it makes you feel also helps you examine yourself more closely. When you’ve been disrespected, it’s essential to call out the emotions. What I mean is, label them. Give your feelings a name: anger, frustration, sadness, incompetency. You can deal better with what you can name.

Finally, separating disrespectful behavior and the resulting feelings helps you consider other important questions: 

  • What specifically was the disrespectful behavior that occurred? 
  • Is the disrespect a one-time thing, or has it been repetitive?
  • Does my spouse know they’re being disrespectful? Do they see how it affects me?
  • Is my spouse being intentionally disrespectful? Is it on purpose?
  • How sensitive am I usually to what others do or say? Does this paint how I see my spouse’s behavior? 
  • Is there something else going on in my own life that could affect how strongly I feel toward my spouse’s disrespectful behavior?

Let’s think about one more thing: It’s entirely possible for a person’s insecurities to cause them to take another’s well-meaning words or actions as a sign of disrespect. We all have to stop and ask ourselves, when we feel disrespected, “Is there something inside causing us to perceive disrespect in something well-intentioned?” 

No one deserves to be disrespected, and it can be painful. But if you feel that your spouse disrespects you, you need a healthy approach to deal with it. Listening to each other, along with good reflection, determines a healthy approach. And this can lead to a better conversation with your spouse, so you can work through this together.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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Is Stress Killing Your Relationship?

Find ways to manage stress before it does major relationship damage.

Are you overwhelmed with deadlines at work, kids in school, the weekly to-do list, health concerns, drama on social media? Is stress taking a toll on your relationship? Do you find yourself taking out your stress on your significant other? If so, you’re not alone. 

Stress, handled wrongly, hurts relationships. It’s a reality. Often it’s the small stressors that build up and do damage. 

We all face daily stresses. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could use a magic wand and remove all the stress in our lives? The reality is we have to learn to manage stress, not let stress manage us.

Here’s how to tell if stress is impacting your relationship:

Stressed out people are more withdrawn. 

When you’re stressed, you may pull away from those you love or be less affectionate. Maybe you’re working longer hours, spending more time alone, or camping out in front of the TV as a way of escaping all you have to deal with. Isolating yourself can damage your relationship.

Stressed out people see the worst in others. 

When we’re stressed, it’s easy to allow the small things to overwhelm us. A minor thing your spouse does, like not picking up their shoes, suddenly becomes a sign of disrespect and a lack of appreciation. Maybe they just forgot their shoes. But stress is blurring your vision and you see them doing it out of spite.

Stress leads to exhaustion. 

Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Whether the tension stems from work, kids, or our calendars, it bleeds over into all aspects of our lives. Have you ever noticed that when you’re mentally exhausted, you just want to sleep? Stress takes a toll on our bodies. This can leave our spouse (and others) feeling neglected.

Stress makes us irritable. 

Who wants to be around grumpy people? The longer the stress lasts, the crankier you get. This can lead to arguments and hurtful words. 

[How Not to Blow Up On Your Kids When You’re Stressed Out: The Timeout is a great read if you’ve got kids]

Stress causes us to put other things in front of our relationship. 

Technology is a fabulous tool but can also be a source of stress. Endless work texts or emails can interrupt time with your spouse. When we are stressed due to work or other obligations, it becomes easy to prioritize those above our relationship.

So, if you find yourself resonating with these common signs of stress…

Make a plan…when you aren’t stressed out. 

If both of you are in a place of little stress, plan how you will deal with stress once it increases. Help to identify each other’s stressors and stress patterns. Look for ways to reduce stressors before they take over.

Reduce your stress. 

You can’t help your spouse if you can’t help yourself, so identify what reduces your stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I like to go for a run. It’s time to decompress, soak in the fresh air, and clear my mind. Maybe it’s exercise, music, or getting in nature. Communicate to your spouse what you need to do to reduce stress. Make sure you both have time to de-stress and refresh. (Read How Couples Can Help Each Other De-Stress and Improve Their Relationship)

Prioritize your relationship. 

You’re a team! Commit to each other and to ensuring that stress will not take over your relationship. Dr. Michael Mantell, an Advanced Behavior Coach, puts it this way: “Help each other remember you cannot control the uncontrollable, to always look for victory not defeat, to agree to set aside time to talk and be each other’s defense attorney, not prosecutor.”

Ask for help. 

Your partner can’t provide for all your needs. Putting that expectation on each other isn’t healthy. Sometimes we need help, whether that’s a trusted friend or a therapist. Don’t be afraid to seek help. Protecting your relationship must be the priority. 

Stress is a reality. You can’t make it go away, but you can manage stress so that it doesn’t kill your relationship. What will you do today to reduce stress in your life?

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***