Being married to another person is a long-term endeavor. If “until death do us part” is really the idea, then chances are pretty good that you’re going to share many significant experiences together over the years, and not all of those experiences are going to be pleasant…
In fact, the most trying times you are likely to face as a couple may not even have much to do with the relationship, but how you each deal with the curveballs life can throw at you – and how you support one another when things are at their hardest.
Below, you’ll find a list of 6 of the biggest stressors that married couples have to deal with:
1. Job Loss
Times are tough for many, many people, and when employment falls through for one reason or another, it puts tremendous financial pressure on a family of any size. Whether you’re already struggling with poverty, where losing a job a can make you feel like you’re back at square one – or if you’re fairly well-to-do, and losing a job means a fistful of monthly payments you can no longer afford to make…
Suddenly changing financial circumstances are one of the biggest stressors for all people. Because it’s so stressful, our natural reaction is to look for reasons behind the change – which can then lead to blaming our spouses for their loss of a job (which may have been outside of their control), or serious damage to our own elf-esteem for losing our own source of income. Not only is this kind of finger pointing bad for the stability of a relationship, but financial woes are also one of the most common things couples fight about – so even if it’s no one’s fault, there’s plenty of tension you’ll likely have to wade through.
Instead of making excuses, blaming each other, or allowing yourself to be overwhelmed and paralyzed by financial hardship, start with what you CAN control: reduce extra expenses wherever possible, cancel services you don’t need, look into the process of unemployment insurance, explore the options in your area for food trucks, utility assistance, and the like, and above all, make finding new work your absolute top priority.
It won’t make your financial challenges any less stressful, but if you act practically (and quickly), you can start to find assistance and other sources of income before the debts start to stack up – and your problems get even worse.
2. Having A Baby
Expanding the family is a goal for many couples, and having a baby is all part of the plan – until it actually happens. Babies are loveable and wonderful, but they are also a huge financial burden, keep you up at night, wear you out, take away from other ways you like to spend your time – and frankly, change your life permanently!
But people don’t necessarily think about this stuff when they set out to have a child, they just think about the warm, fuzzy feeling of having a new bundle of joy – not about the sleepless nights… Or the long, uncomfortable time spent pregnant… Or all the stuff they’ll have to buy… Or all of the doctor visits…
The point is – it’s a lot more complicated than people anticipate, and the unexpected elements can stress couples to the point that they’re fighting without even realizing it. They’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed with new responsibility – even if it isn’t their first child – and this makes people awfully short-tempered.
If you’re adding a member to your family, make a plan. Know what to expect, talk about how you’re going to handle the tough moments, and how you’re going to work together to make the whole ordeal as stress-free for each other as possible.
This is another huge life event that seems to be all roses from a distance – but is a LOT more complicated when you actually get around to going through it yourself. Retirement means changing finances (which we already know is a huge stressor), finding new ways to spend your time, redefining your identity outside of a career, and could even mean changing homes or locations.
On top of those broad and ongoing challenges, there’s going to be paperwork to fill out, and just a lot of nitpicky little things you have to get in place before you really start enjoying your retirement. When working through this stuff, the stress (and unforeseen future) can cause couples to fight about anything and everything, especially finances.
Instead of letting it stress you out, though, let this be a time of excitement! Change can be a great thing if you have the right outlook. Just because there are a lot of hoops to jump through, that doesn’t mean it won’t all be worth it in the end, or that the process itself can’t be enjoyable – or at least educational.
4. Death In The Family
When a loved one passes away, it can be truly devastating. Grief is a very powerful emotion, and can make people push others away – or make people become extremely needy. It is a time of great emotional unrest, and this makes people volatile. We need the support of our spouses more than ever, even if we are unknowingly pushing them away.
In addition to the emotional toll a death in family can take on a relationship, there may also be added responsibilities of making funeral arrangements, dealing with the estate of the deceased, wills, inheritance, a home… Any and all of the departed’s affairs.
This tough time can put couples at odds, but can also be a chance to truly support one another. Unfortunately, there is no real silver lining to this scenario, only being able to cope with grief as best as possible, and working together to manage any responsibilities you may have fallen into.
5. Fighting Through Addiction
Addiction is almost always ugly. Even when someone is committed to cleaning up, the process of fighting through it can make people lash out at the people who love them, behave irrationally, or any of a number of other troubling behaviors. It can be hard to remain patient with a recovering addict, and even more difficult to convince an addict that they need help in the first place.
Like the entry above, however, this is a time when the support of a loving suppose is at its most valuable (as well as the help of professionals), and trying to get through the challenges together may end up making the relationship stronger. There isn’t any way to get around the stress that fighting through an addiction will cause – what you can do, however, is focus on the goal at the end, and how much better the marriage will be when the two of you have fought and won a battle with addiction.
Fighting through an injury or illness is exhausting, stressful, potentially expensive, and just downright miserable. It can make people short tempered, difficult to deal with, and down on themselves, as well as create tension because they may need help, but resent having to ask for it.
It can also cause the healthier of the two spouses to begin resenting the help they need to provide, especially if the ill or injured person isn’t doing much to show their gratitude. This is another situation where it’s stressful for everyone, and that stress makes people act unpleasantly toward each other – which only causes more stress and problems… And thus the cycle continues.
In a situation like this, similar to grieving a lost loved one or struggling with losing a job, it’s a matter of pressing forward, letting time pass, and finding practical solutions to the small problems you can address directly. Getting angry at each other – no matter who’s injured or ill – will do nothing to help the situation.
Now, for all of these stressors, there’s one HUGE way to keep your marriage on track in the face of the challenges: your attitude.
Only you have the power to control your mood, and keeping a positive, forward-thinking outlook is critical to making it through these stressful scenarios with your marriage intact.
You can choose to wallow in an illness or injury, or you can dedicate your energy to thinking positive and coming back stronger than before. You can put off the confusing retirement paperwork, or dive in with a willingness to learn something new. You can blame outside factors for your job loss, or you can accept responsibility (or just accept reality) and move forward toward a new career…
In every scenario above, how you handle it will make all the difference in the world. Don’t let stress divide your marriage. Together, you’re strong enough to tackle the biggest challenges and get through the toughest times.
For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com
I have been married to my wife for 11 year. For most of the time she has had an inability to deal with any stress. In our courting stage it seemed to be simple complaining, and never got out of hand. I wasn't around her 24/7 and she seemed to have other outlets. As our like together moved forward I became her sole outlet for all stress.
I have been married to a drug addict for 2 1/2 years, he was using before our marriage I believe but I was not aware. It came to light shortly after we got married and we have been battling with it since. He went down hill VERY quickly. About a year ago he accepted he had a problem and we seeked out help, he was put on subboxone, a pill to help drug addicts get off oppiate pills (kinda counter productive but I figured better than what he was doing) Its been a year since than and I believe he is back on drugs. He steals, lies, and cheats but denies he is using drugs. I am done and want him out of my house. I cant afford rehab, I doubt he would go anyway. I want to kick him out, but he has no money, no job, and no where to go. I am going to get a divorce, but I cant take him living with me until then.
Hi Kimberly, I know that is a terrible situation, we can try to help. https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/married-to-an-addict-divorce-is-not-inevitable/
Hi Ernest, maybe you can help show her how to keep the small stuff small - https://www.strongmarriagenow.com/marriage-advice-small-stuff-small/ - and work on methods of handling stress.
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