You've probably read the sobering statistic that approximately half of all marriages end in divorce, and you likely know people who have been through marital difficulties or divorce. Even the best marriages are affected by stress at some point. Finding thoughtful and constructive ways to manage the stress can help you and your partner weather the tough times.
Talk to your partner about what you both believe is causing stress in your marriage and how you might work together to improve the situation. Sometimes, the stressor is obvious: the loss of a job, problems with a troubled teen or significant health issues all put strain on a marriage. Other times, the cause of the stress may be less evident, and it may take multiple discussions to give voice to the issues, discuss them calmly and attempt to find resolution.
Make continuous efforts to keep the channels of communication between you and your partner open. Step back from time to time and and truly listen to what your partner has to say about his concerns and open the door for him to do the same for you. When a marriage is under stress, it's easy to fall into the trap of being short and impatient with each other, which increases the strain. Worse yet, troubled couples may stop communicating altogether, which increases each partner's feelings of isolation and all but closes the door to resolving problems together.
Do something thoughtful for your partner when it's least expected. You don't have to be extravagant or make a big deal out of it, just find occasional small ways to brighten her day or reduce her stress. Cook dinner one evening when you know your spouse had a particularly tiring or difficult day at work. Take the kids out to the park so she can have a couple uninterrupted hours to enjoy a TV show or finish a project. Pick up your partner's dry cleaning so he doesn't have to, get her a bunch of colorful spring flowers when she's feeling "blah," or simply leave each other a "thinking of you" or "I love you" note.
Spend time together doing an activity you both enjoy. Engaging in a fun activity together provides a respite from stress, if only temporarily, and might also remind you both of the positive things in your marriage -- things that often get overlooked when stress has taken up residence in a marriage. If your budget permits, have a "grown-up" dinner at a favorite restaurant with good memories. If money is tight, take a walk in the park or see a bargain movie. You can also relieve stress by doing something fun or silly together, even though that may be the last thing you feel like doing: push each other on the swings at the playground, splash through the rain puddles or have a pillow fight.
- For stressful issues you are unable to resolve as a couple, consider seeking professional help from your pastor or a counselor. Severe or prolonged stress that leads to outbursts of violence, self-destructive acts or addictive behavior requires assistance from a qualified professional.
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