Where do you go with your stress? Do you take it out on your wife or husband? Or do you take it to your spouse?
I know, I know, there are a lot of jokes about marriage adding to your stress… The great thing about marriage though, is that its design is perfect for the management and reduction of stress.
One of the fundamental invitations of Jesus Christ was to give rest/relief as Matthew 11:28 states, “Come unto me, all who labor and I will give you rest.” Obviously, we can’t save our spouse, but we can be the secure sounding board that will give them relief from outside stresses. God wants us to be at peace and at rest and has designed marriage as a tool to get us to that place in our lives.
How does this work?
Before we go on… If you haven’t listened to (or read) Episode 15, go do it now. Listening with understanding is the key to reducing your spouse’s stress.
Talk it out! Try to talk for 10 to 20 minutes about a stressor and give as much detail as possible. Something to keep in mind is that this is for stress outside the relationship, this is not related to relationship issues! Those need to be talked out too, but that is not what we’re discussing here.
In general, men seem to feel obliged to solve a problem, while women take their husband’s problem and make it their own. Don’t do either! Caleb and I have fun with this as we notice ourselves doing these stereotypical things.
Husbands: Just listen. I was meaning just listen to your wife, but again, listen to Episode 15 too! It’s about listening to understand. Just hear her out and make sure you understand what she’s telling you and more importantly what she’s feeling. Don’t feel you need to solve the problem!
Wives: Again, listen! Listen to understand. Don’t make his stress your problem and get wound up and fuel the fire and make his stress bigger (I am SO guilty of this one). I know that the she-bear wants to come out when our husband is criticized, but making his problem our problem doesn’t help him or us. Just hear him out. Make sure you respond in such a way that he knows you heard him. What he really needs is wound down, not wound up!
Oh yeah, and make sure you trade roles. Sometimes Caleb gets home and I’m so busy ranting and raving and de-stressing that I forget to ask about his day. And by the time he’s done hearing about mine, he doesn’t want to add his own stress! Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating here (at least I hope I am!) but make sure you take turns hearing each other out.
That’s the fabulous thing about marriage – it’s a safe, secure, non-judgemental place to air everything out.
Why doesn’t this always work?
Protector: We know a guy who feels he needs to protect his family from his stress. So instead of talking to his wife about it, he takes it out on his wife and kids in anger and harshness (and yes, that is his own confession). 10 minutes of talking it out and receiving empathy from his wife would make such a difference in this situation.
Fear of Dependency: Another reason for not sharing stress, is the Fear of Dependency (if you haven’t listened to Episode #9, go do it now). Some people, especially men, feel that they need to stand alone and not depend on anyone. This really puts up barriers to intimacy.
Other ways to use your marriage for stress relief?
Comfort Sex: Sexy Marriage Radio mentioned that there are different kinds of sex, and using sex for comfort is one of them.
Gifts/Pampering/Popcorn: Yes, popcorn is my comfort food and if I’m stressed, Caleb knows I’ll enjoy it. It has become a joke between us now, but seriously, find out what is a comfort to your spouse and give it to him/her!
Go on a date.
In review, marriage should be a safe harbor. It is one of the few places you can get a non-judgmental listening ear and receive honest, supportive feedback. Talking about the stress in your life and receiving empathy from your spouse creates togetherness and increases intimacy while decreasing stress levels.
There is a verse in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 that says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”What a blessing to be in a marriage where you have a spouse to lift you up (or calm you down, depending on the situation)!
Our question-asker this week again wanted to remain anonymous, but she asked, “How do we ask our husbands to do things without treating him/making him feel like a child?” Have you ever struggled with this? Go listen to the podcast to find out what Caleb and I think.
PS. If this was your question and we didn’t understand the angle you were coming from, please clarify!