It’s only when you’re squeezed that you find out what’s inside.
When stress hits our family, sometimes it’s the ugly that spills out. It doesn’t always feel like our best moments. It’s not what we envisioned our marriage would look like when we were standing at the altar.
But stressful times are a reality.
Joe and I have had quite a few stressful situations we’ve had to walk through over the last few months. Sometimes I’m feeling it, or Joe’s feeling it, or we’re both feeling it. Like we can’t take this anymore! Too much stuff being thrown at us at once. We’re tired of talking about it, and we haven’t made any progress towards a solution. We need a break.
Spinning wheels. More friction. Making things worse by believing the lie that this is too hard for us. This is too hard for God.
So I’m writing these reminders for me. Like right now because I forget easily. This is what I want to remember when the stress is threatening to destroy the unity in our marriage!
Fiercely separate the problem from the person.
It’s not about what my husband is doing wrong. Instead place the blame on the situation (“This is going to be hard”) and treat my husband as a teammate and not an opponent (“but we’ll get through it together!” ) Just because I’m not handling my stress well it doesn’t mean I can be rude or insensitive to my husband. Joe is quick to apologize if he snaps at me due to some stressor that I know nothing about: “I’m sorry I responded that way. You didn’t do anything to deserve that.”
Listen, listen, listen.
Treating my spouse like a teammate means letting him on my team. Listen to his point of view instead of talking over him. His opinions and feelings are valid, too.
Affirm your spouse and your love for him.
I need to go out of my way to say “I love you” more often. When we’re under stress, we need more encouragement, period. I can be the first to offer it.
Understand your spouse’s stress language.
Joe and I have very different things that make us stressed, and very different ways of coping with that stress. We’ve only just realized this in the past couple years and are learning to adapt to this new revelation. I made stressful situations more stressful by treating him the way I would want to be treated instead of how he wanted to be treated. Which means, he doesn’t always want to talk it out for three hours straight. Yeah, true story. He might prefer more time alone to process things by himself. If he says, I don’t need to talk about it, let him be.
Joe also learned that I don’t want to be left alone but that some verbal processing can soothe my anxiety quicker. He has learned to smile and nod and say, “You’re right. That stinks.” 😉
This also means being clear about what I expect. Joe is not that good at reading my mind so we get though stressful times better when I’m clear with him about what I need. So he doesn’t feel like he’s helpless and just guessing about how to help me. “You should just know I’m stressed and should have…. ” is not the best way to start a conversation, is what we’ve learned!!
Add in small ordinary acts of kindness.
That goes a long way when the atmosphere in our home is stressful. When it feels like I’m running on empty, even a small act of kindness goes a long way. Joe will bring me home my favorite drink. I’ll volunteer to rub his feet. It’s our one quiet way of saying, we’re in this together. I don’t blame you.
Remind each other to rely on God first.
When things are crazy and stressful it’s tempting for me to want Joe to just fix it. He does fix a lot of stuff for me. I’m so thankful for him. But our marriage gets out of whack when I depend solely on my husband to fix everything for me. When I expect my husband to always make me feel better.
In Romans 15, Paul reminds us be strong for those who are weak. As fellow believers we can offer each other that strength. Sometimes Joe is the strong one, other times I’m the one holding onto hope. We remind each other that God is with us in the hard times. That He has a purpose in our trial and to keep our eyes on Him. That He really does love us and He will provide the strength we need to get through whatever it is! As we depend on God for that strength, we are better equipped to love each other!
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Romans 15:1
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