Recent studies demonstrate that a stressful relationship can damage your health.
Stress in a marriage can take a very serious toll on your relationship with your spouse. In fact, the impact that a stressful relationship can have on your health and that of your spouse can actually kill you!
According to a recent Danish study, arguing and worrying over family problems may lead to an increased risk of dying in middle age. "Stressful social relations in private life are associated with a two- to three-times increased risk of dying," said lead researcher Dr. Rikke Lund, an associate professor in the department of public health at the University of Copenhagen.
What are the warning signs that your relationship is suffering? What can you do to keep your love alive while dealing with stress? How can you protect your health and the health of your spouse by dealing with marital stress effectively?
Our research over the years suggests that there are a number of useful strategies that you can use to not only deal with the everyday stresses of marriage, but that can also strengthen your marriage at the same time and, perhaps, save your life.
Nine strategies for dealing with stress in your marriage:
1.Talk openly about your feelings and emotions. In times of stress, the tendency is to keep everything bottled up inside or to explode at the slightest disagreement. However, this approach will not work if you want your marriage to survive and thrive. In successful marriages couples talk about everything. Steps to take:
- Share with your spouse insights about everything — the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Make a conscious effort to hear what your spouse is really saying with an attitude of acceptance.
- Become each other's best friends with unconditional support, total trust and complete honesty.
2. Approach all financial challenges with teamwork and open communication. Balancing the family budget requires teamwork, especially when introducing children into your marriage, dealing with unusual financial burdens, or losing a job comes your way. People in love support each other through thick and thin; if you don’t work together to address head-on the economic challenges and stresses on your marriage, there is little hope of success. Some steps you can take:
- Always talk about your finances; don't let a debt or an unpaid bill slip by unnoticed.
- Work together to determine your common financial goals and budget.
- Never make a major purchase without talking it over with your spouse and sleeping on it.
3. Don't blame each other when things get tough. The blame game doesn't work in love and marriage and it is destructive. There is a natural tendency in tough times to blame the one you love for your collective misfortune and stress, but people in love don't blame, castigate or chastise each other in challenging times. Some steps you can take:
- No matter how you feel, always treat your spouse with respect and love.
- The truth is, there usually is no one person to blame. Figure out how you contributed to the problem and what you can do differently in the future.
- Give your spouse's opinion serious consideration as you work together to discover solutions to your problems.
4. Don’t wallow in self-pity. No problem has ever been solved by feeling sorry for yourself or your situation. Successful couples grab "the bull by the horns" and work for solutions. Making a family work is clearly difficult even in the best of times and even more challenging when you have many stressors to deal with. Some steps you can take:
- Sit down with your spouse to figure out possible solutions to your problem and determine a plan that both of you can support.
- Celebrate your successes as you accomplish each step of the plan. Feeling like you are moving in a positive direction helps eliminate self-pity.
5. Make an effort to keep the flame of your love affair alive everyday. What type of priority do you place on making time for fun and romance with each other in your hectic lives? Doing so can help you overcome the challenges by reminding you of why you fell in love in the first place. Some steps you can take:
- Make a point of touching your spouse in a loving way at least ten times a day.
- Carve out time to have a romantic date with each other: bring home flowers, get a hotel room, go for a long walk together, drink a bottle of wine watching the sunset, write a love note or even just snuggle in bed a little longer in the morning.
- Plan a vacation (or even just a stay-cation). Nothing helps people reconnect better than a little time away from the daily grind.
6. Allow each other occasional time for privacy and aloneness. One of the keys to a successful marriage is when both partners allow each other to have privacy and aloneness. We live such hectic lives at work and at home that the time to be alone with our own thoughts is paramount to our ability to engage in any meaningful communication with each other. The quality of communication can only be enhanced between the two of you after refreshing your mind and spirit with alone time. You have to belong to yourself before you can belong to others. Some steps you can take:
- The amount of time available to satisfy these two needs varies from one marriage to another and from one marriage partner to another, and can increase during times of stress. Talk with your spouse about each of your needs and desires for privacy and alone time.
- Work together to determine a plan that you both will honor to allow each other occasional time for privacy and aloneness.
7. Remember that the simple things matter in marriage and they need to be practiced daily. Thirty-two years of research on love and successful marriage has taught us many things, but first and foremost that no love has blossomed or been sustained without doing the simple things. Big things don't matter until your relationship has mastered the art of doing the simple things day in and day out. Too often when we are engaged in stressful life situations, we forget to just do the simple things for the one we love the most. Some steps you can take:
- Make a list of 20 simple things you will do to make your spouse's life better. Examples include remembering to say thank you, calling when you are going to be late or leaving a sticky love note on your lover's wallet or purse.
- Be more generous with your time for each other.
- Engage in simple acts of kindness and spontaneous feel-good moments.
8. Develop a network of support from family, friends and relatives. You and your spouse do not have to deal with the stress all by yourself. Don't be deluded into thinking you can or even should do it alone. Your friends and family want to support you through thick and thin. Take full advantage of their willingness to help.
- Cultivate good relationships with your family, friends and relatives. They can be your best supporters in times of need.
- Don't be shy about asking for help from your family, aunts, uncles or neighbors.
9. Stay healthy and happy, both physically and mentally. It is nearly impossible to take care of others when you don't take of yourself. Some steps you can take:
- Live healthier: take your vitamins and medications, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, cut down the use of alcohol and nicotine.
- Engage in a daily exercise program with your spouse.
- Don't forget your annual physical exams.
Dealing with the many stressors in your marriage and in life can be a real challenge. Dealing with them effectively could not only save your marriage, but also save your life.
For more tips to enhance your relationship get the best-selling and multiple-award winning book Building a Love that Lasts. Available wherever books are sold.
By Dr. Charles and Dr. Elizabeth Schmitz
America's #1 Love and Marriage Experts
Discover what happily married women know about what makes a man marriage material and learn other revealing truths in How to Marry the Right Guy – the latest multiple award winning book by the Doctors.