You’ve heard the one about the old man who was dying? He smelled cherry pie baking, so he roused himself from bed and staggered into the kitchen. He was reaching for the pie when his wife swatted his wrist away. “No!” she barked. “That’s for your funeral.”
Here are 10 things we can do to reduce the amount of stress in marriage:
- Always put your spouse first: This is a HUGE principle, key to reducing relationship stress. Ideally, a husband and wife will put the other first, but you only have control over your behavior.
- Have fun together: Movies, walks, picnics, games, trips…not just fun but hilarity. Laughing together is great relationship medicine.
- Build “together time” into your schedule: “Time with your spouse” shouldn’t be relegated to the status of leftovers! Your relationship with your spouse trumps all other priorities and schedules. If that means scrawling “Relax together” on the calendar in indelible marker, then so be it!
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: When you feel the first inklings of stress, ask yourself “Is this a moral issue?” If not (nine times out of ten it isn’t), then let it go. Make your mutual priorities a recurring topic of conversation. Remind yourselves what really counts. Simplify your lifestyle. Celebrate what you have in each other.
- Give back, and do it together: Work at the soup kitchen; volunteer with a faith-based community; hook up with a group that helps the less fortunate or restores the environment. Throw yourselves into charitable causes together, and watch things fall into perspective.
- Communicate clearly and respectfully: Like sit-com fodder, misunderstandings are the source of a lot of tension. Always keep your spouse in the loop, and always communicate with love and good manners.
- Tell the truth: Remember the old adage, “When you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said the last time.” People who don’t keep secrets experience less stress in relationships.
- Hold hands, hug, and make out! Physical contact is a proven stress reliever. Squeeze into the same chair to watch TV – just hang all over one-another. Reach out and take your spouse’s hand while walking, driving, or at an event. Be deliberate about demonstrating affection via physical contact.
- Play to your strengths – and hers: Effective teachers know that playing to a student’s strengths works better than focusing on any weaknesses. Pay attention to your spouse’s strengths; build up, affirm, and encourage. Criticism always leads to more stress.
- Live within your means: Money problems are the leading cause of stress in American marriages. Take preventative measures to work this one out. Remember #4, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Most of the stuff we get into debt over is simply not worth the stress.