How to make sure stress doesn’t destroy your marriage

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Whatever the cause of stress in a household, the impact of it has a lot, if not everything, to do with how we deal with it.

Avoidance of stress does not lead to happiness

It is not the avoidance of stress and conflict which leads to a happy union, but the healthy and constructive management of it.

Busy lifestyles, stress at work and economic stress are the realities of our lives, but that doesn’t mean our family relationships have to fall apart, or our levels of happiness have to decrease. It all starts and ends with healthy and frequent communication – voicing our own feelings and needs, but more importantly taking heed of the other person’s.

Happy marriages lay the foundation for happy families.

Stress often leads to conflict

Stress more often than not leads to conflict and it is here that the greatest responsibility lies for all parents in teaching their children how to handle it.

You are the first and most influential role model in your children’s lives. Your children will take their cue from you and build their own relationships on that foundation.

Financial stress and power struggles

According to statistics, one of the biggest factors that contribute to divorce is finances, and not necessarily just the lack thereof.

Financial stress can occur as a result of a power struggle or simply differing opinions around spending and budgeting. When two individuals try to merge and unite different backgrounds, experiences and opinions – undoubtedly there will be conflicts.

Good communication and a willingness to negotiate and compromise are essential in these situations. Your parents might have done a great job handling finances a certain way, and your spouse’s parents may have done an equally great job handling it a different way.

The most common causes of stress in relationships have to do with finances, children, careers, busy schedules and poor communication.

We tend to believe that if it worked for our parents then it must be right, but there are different ways to, excuse the imagery, skin a cat, and you and your spouse have to negotiate a new way that will work for your unique relationship and circumstances.

How well you communicate and negotiate around this issue puts an essential cornerstone in place on which you will build in the years to come.

Couples with children more unhappy than couples without kids

Distressingly, the latest studies around stress and marriage are showing that mothers and fathers are generally less happy than their childless counterparts. Mothers are more unhappy than fathers, and single parents even more so.

The addition of children and the extra demands they place upon the members of a household economically, physically and emotionally can definitely be a huge stressor. That being said, children can be a delightful addition to our lives as sources of tremendous joy and fulfilment if we deal with parenting and conflict in a healthy and positive way.

How to minimise stress and conflict

A huge step towards minimising stress and conflict and improving a household’s joy is turning our focus from ourselves and our own needs towards the other’s.

Mom and dad need to make an effort to find out what each other’s needs are and make a concerted effort to meet those needs – something which comes so naturally when newly in love and dating or even early in the marriage.

When we become less internally focussed and more focussed on each other, communication improves and as a result, conflict reduces and understanding flourishes.

However when only one partner is always focussed on the other and the other partner remains focussed internally an imbalance may result. This can lead to greater stress and marital problems.

Sometimes people can become so comfortable within a relationship, especially when one person is always willing to give of themselves, that they stop working at it and are content just to take without giving in return.

In these situations it is often advisable to seek the assistance of a counsellor or mediator who can help couples to better vocalise and express their needs and concerns and may be able to provide practical advice and support.

Tips for promoting good communication in your relationship:

Think before talking – we often tend to give knee-jerk responses, but before speaking ask yourself whether what you have to say is relevant, necessary and constructive.

Listen attentively – don’t make the mistake of only listening to the other person’s first couple of words before your brain goes into overdrive thinking about how you are going to respond. Force yourself to listen attentively until the other person has finished making their point.

Be honest – if something really bothers you and creates a stumbling block in your relationship, bring it to light and discuss it honest and openly. Don’t use honesty as an excuse to hurt or offend, but as a way to strengthen and build.

Try to keep an open mind – be careful not to judge the other person’s opinions, thoughts or feelings, but listen without judging or jumping to conclusions.

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