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Anxiety and Stress

Marriage: Helping Your Spouse Manage Stress Matters

Posted on: March 3rd, 2016 by Dr. Angela Bisignano

Marriage these days remains under attack on many fronts. One way we can help to counter these attacks is to make strengthening our marriages a priority. Understanding the role of stress and finding tools to combat its negative effects is vital to the wellbeing of our marriage. Stress is inevitably part of our lives and marriage. We all experience stress from time to time. One effective strategy for helping our marriage is to help our spouse manage their stress in healthier ways.

In my work I am very interested in what emotionally intelligent and spiritually sensitive marriages do well. I am committed to my marriage and to helping other marriages be successful and happy. In my role as a psychologist, I am able to partner with married couples and together we can work on preserving their marriage, protect the emotional well being of their children and in so doing impact generations to come. I am passionate about my work.

So what is one way emotionally intelligent couples help their spouses to manage stress more effectively? In a previous article on marriage, I wrote about the number one strength of emotionally intelligent couples. According to Dr. John Gottman’s 40 years of research working with married couples, the number one strength is friendship. If you want to be a good friend to your spouse one way is to help them deal with their stress in a healthy way.

A simple, yet very important question to ask your spouse: What external pressures or problems are causing stress for you?

External stress is that stress outside of your marriage. It might be a job, a challenging boss, financial pressures, difficulty with a friendship or something else. This question helps them to focus on and identify three key points:

  • what the problem may be
  • feelings associated with it
  • underlying needs

Quite often stress begins to build and people don’t have an effective way to process it or manage it. The repercussions of stress can be negative, affecting many other areas including mental wellbeing, physical health and social interactions. Stress quite often directly affects those we are closest to.

If you want some quick tips to help your spouse, try having a stress less conversation with them. Here are four easy things to remember as you lead your spouse in this discussion. I use the acronym less that will help you remember these four stress less tips.

Listen: You want to listen attentively and without judgment to your spouse. You are not trying to solve their problems. Rather you are trying to help them alleviate their stress by lending your ear and just listening. This is actually more challenging than you may think. We are often preoccupied with providing answers, how we will respond, or other thoughts in general. This is a time to be present and just listen.

Empathize: Helping them alleviate their stress by listening is important, however you want to do so with empathy. Show that you care about what they are going through and feeling. Let your body, facial expressions and language convey that you are compassionate towards their situation or circumstances.

Support: You want to let your spouse know that you support them in this process and while they are going through this situation. More than anything they need you to be understanding and reassuring. Practice being kind and considerate. You don’t have to agree to be supportive. You are simply validating their position, thoughts and feelings.

Side with your spouse: This is the time to side with your spouse. Whatever you may be thinking about the situation, your spouse does not need you to take the side of the other person or who they believe may be the “enemy.” The most important thing you can convey to your spouse is that you love them, you care about them and that you are on their side.

If you put these four tips into practice and do them several times a week you can help your spouse manage more effectively their stress. In so doing, you can strengthen your own marriage and the health of your relationship. Let these words encourage you and may they help strengthen your marriage,

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.  ~Colossians 4:6

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