4 Steps To Handling STRESS In Your Marriage


It may be cliché, but we teach what we need to learn most. When my husband got laid off all my fear bells and whistles went off in my nervous system. Would he get another job? Will we have to relocate? Is our retirement in jeopardy? The unanswerable questions and deer in headlights feeling is something I had to learn how to cope with and quell over the months that ensued. After 5 long months and lots of frustrating moments, anxiety and attempts to "help" him out, I learned quite a bit about getting through his layoff.

My initial reaction was to get more productive in my work. I had the best summer on record for my business. Unfortunately, getting more business didn't actually resolve the stress I felt internally and it did nothing for him. In fact, I found that the pressure just built up. It was at that time that I then returned to what I know works. The following four steps helped us to thrive during this time.

1. Intention

The best way to go through a layoff (your own or your spouse's) is to choose an empowering perspective. First, contemplate your intention for this time. If your spouse is laid off, what frame of mind would be most rewarding to you and your family? Could it be an opportunity to reflect upon what is most important?

Set an intention for things to be better. Ask yourself, in what specific ways do you want things to be better than when your partner was in his/her previous position? Trust that this is possible and do your best to let yourself surrender into that possibility.

An additional intention could be to enjoy this time and treat it like a gift and well deserved break for your spouse that can nurture him. The key to having peace during this time is to trust the process.

More on that later. Create a practice of setting intentions for the day and the future each morning (or night before you go to bed). Simply write down what is possible that you'd like to have happen in your life. If you are resistant to setting intentions, at least clear your mind of negative expectations (usually perpetuated by fear). To clear your mind, you may want to listen to a guided relaxation audio that takes your mind off fearful thoughts and gives you a new perspective.

2. Honor Your Feelings.

If you find yourself with feelings of desperation, control, and fear, by all means acknowledge the feelings. Feelings are messages from your soul that need their say and want to be felt. Spend some time (which may be uncomfortable) exploring the feelings consciously.

What does that mean? Well, start being curious about the feeling. Don't try to just numb it out with alcohol, distractions, food, shopping, gambling, gossiping, complaining. or other avoidance mechanisms. Those behaviors will actually exacerbate the feelings and cause more distress.

Instead, lay on your bed and ask yourself, "what am I feeling?" Stay with that question beyond the simple answer that comes up. If you go beyond the reaction, and breathe into this feeling as if you were listening to a highly respected person who was speaking a foreign language and had an extremely important message for you. Like learning a new language it takes patience and attention. 

Practice doing this consistently and you will create greater awareness about the feeling and about yourself. Furthermore, the better you get at listening to this foreign speaker, the more the feeling can resolve itself without you doing anything else. Caution: while laying on your bed "feeling" do your best to avoid "thinking" about your situation and/or or partner.

Avoid going into justifications, complaints, and rationalizing your feelings. Rather let the feelings be there. As you breathe into them notice if they change or if a new awareness comes to you. Be curious and then ask, "What is the underlying desire of your heart that is driving this feeling?"

3. Take Care of Yourself.

If there are people in your life who you care about you and know you are feeling extra stress during this time, they have probably encouraged you to take care of yourself. I agree. Think about taking a nap or a bath. Lighting some candles and put on some soothing music.

Take time to nurture yourself. Can't think of what to do? What would you tell your best friend to do to take care of herself? Do something special that you know you enjoy... pick flowers, walk in the park, sing a song, dance. If you have something you enjoy doing that nurtures you, please comment below and share your ideas. This may help another woman who  is waiting for your ideas on the perfect special way to cultivate some joy.

Another way to take care of yourself and your feelings is to channel the energy of your feelings to something healthy for you. Some people like to run, walk, dance, hula hoop, garden or do a favorite form of movement or exercise.

Using color, collage, or clay can also be a great way to allow your feelings to express themselves and have their say.  Singing, dancing and writing (as in a journal) also work. Channeling your energy is very different than avoiding the feelings. This is a conscious act of using the energy you have to support you.

4. Trust the Process.

The most rewarding step is letting go of expectations and trusting that everything will work out for the best in the right time. Think of it this way. There is a bigger plan that you can't even imagine. But it is working out for your highest good and better than you could even ask for or create on your own.

If you let go of your need to have a resolution right now, and instead hold your intention, then let the plan play out. You might be amazed at how good things happen.

To summarize, here are the steps to making a spouse's layoff as positive and productive as possible:

1. Set an intention to have things be better
2. Be honest about your fears and find healthy way to channel this energy
3. Take time for yourself
4. Trust the process

Remember to give yourself a break. Know that you are of great value and things will work out.