We are all familiar with “the honeymoon stage” in a marriage: the point in which the relationship is smooth-sailing, both partners are forgiving of each other’s faults and blissfully happy. This is ideal, and the stage we all wish we could get back to when we feel our relationship slipping into “my spouse does behaviors that irritate me.” Surprisingly, overall happiness is just one benefit of being a part of a happy couple; research has shown that partners in a happy relationship also experience better overall health and more successful careers. Some research even indicates that the quality of a marital relationship affects overall life satisfaction more than any other variable.
So, why not just stay happy? Is it really that hard? Reality is that a happy marriage takes work. The outside world does not stop once we get married; we still have responsibilities to attend to outside of our marital commitment, and these outside stressors are often to blame when couples struggle to remain happy.
In our experience counseling married couples, we have seen the cause of stress take many shapes and forms. Here are just a few:
- Lack of time. Too many commitments can mean too much time spent separated, which can impair a couple’s ability to maintain intimacy.
- Money (or lack thereof). Money has long been known to be a common cause of marital arguments.
- Lack of organization, which can lead to a chaotic home and schedule.
- Lack of sleep, which can be very hard on our bodies, our minds, and our emotions.
- Lack of exercise. Without exercise, our bodies and minds don’t function well, and we can become moody or depressed.
- Lack of recreation. It is hard to be positive when there is no fun in our lives.
We can only handle so much stress before our personal health and relationships are negatively affected, but there are many ways we can take an active role in managing it:
- Prayer. God provides a place of Rest and Peace for us when we seek Him.
- Money management. Communication is key, but if you are still struggling financially, you may need to consult a professional to assist you with creating a money management plan.
- Don’t put things down, put them away (a rule in our home). Having a “home” for all of your belongings can help to manage clutter.
- Organize your time. Maintain a written schedule to keep from overextending yourself and to make sure that you are accomplishing the tasks that need to be accomplished.
- Get plenty of rest and exercise. If you make the time, you will have the time. Incorporate these into your schedule as “non-negotiables.” Healthy body = healthy mind.
- Have FUN! Schedule time for fun and relaxation. Recreational time puts us in a positive mental state allows us to better handle life’s stressors.
- Laughter. The Bible says that laughter restores the soul.
Most couples are capable of learning the skills they need to manage stress on their own, but if the impact on your marriage has already been significant, you may benefit from professional marriage counseling.