Keeping Your Marriage Alive In Stressful Times

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First things first. Let’s get a handle on ‘stress’.  What is stress? According to Medical  News  Today ,   “Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress…. The way you respond to a challenge may also be a type of stress.” That’s the detail that is directly linked to how we find a way to handle our stresses.

My meditation teachers, Thom Knoles and Will Dalton have beautifully re-framed the notion of ‘stress’.  Through my five year practice of twice daily meditation I now understand their message that ‘stress’ isn’t something that simply exists, but that it’s something we create based on how well (or not!) we respond or adapt to life’s demands.

Losing your job doesn’t automatically result in stress. It results in certain conditions or demands which include the need to adapt to the new financial realities of your world. You could choose to feel excited about the new possibilities that await you or could choose to feel fearful (stressed) about how difficult your life is about to become. Every change that comes to us in life also offers an invitation to a new party.

Hopefully you find yourself in a partnership with someone who is interested in finding the most enjoyable way to adapt to your mutually demanding situation. If your partner isn’t in the same adaptive frame of mind as you, that’s ok too – start with doing what you can to increase your adaptive energy, or ‘your ability to adapt.’ At least one of you will be behaving more like a reed in water, which will ease the energy within the home and marriage.

Finding and creating de-stressing activities you both enjoy is a step in the right direction. If you can’t get your spouse on board, then start on something new yourself and watch how curious your spouse becomes! After three months of you meditating, doing yoga or going for a daily 45 minute walk, they’re going to witness remarkable changes in you and they’ll want some of that! During one particularly ‘demanding’ time in my marriage, I chose to repeat aloud ‘I will do better than my best.’ I said this aloud while picking up dog poo in the backyard, while watering plants, while cleaning dishes etc. I soon enjoyed hearing my husband do the same, which made us both laugh and realize that we’re working together to adapt to our demands and enjoy life in the process.

De-stressing activities can also be called ‘adaptation energy maximizers.’ Doesn’t that have a cool ring? Yes, I made it up and I think it gets the point across. One way to maximize adaptation energy is to begin an activity that takes your mind off your immediate demand(s).

The very act of learning something new and changing up routine provides all sorts of benefits. It will increase your self-esteem (you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your safety zone), it releases endorphins (those feel-good hormones), disrupts old habits and fills your mind with more positive and peaceful thoughts. It also gets you out in the world where you may meet people who can provide you with solutions to your ‘stressful’ situation.

I’ll leave you with six ways to bring you and your spouse closer when you’re in the eye of the storm.

Learn To Meditate

I’m sure you’ve heard about the benefits of meditation by now. If you don’t already practice the most powerful life tool, it may be time to ask yourself ‘Why not?’  Many, if not most, of the most successful people practice a form of daily meditation.  It’s gone mainstream big time and every city and town has places to learn.  If you don’t want to take a class and learn from an experienced meditation practitioner you can simply sit quietly, eyes closed, listening to your breath for 10 minutes, working your way up to 20 minutes.  You can comment below for help finding a meditation practice that suits you.

Practice Yoga

Commit to a weekly couples yoga class (or solo beginner yoga class).  That 60-90 minutes you make for yourself will be time you’ll never regret. Gentle yoga is all you need. A place to breathe deeply and rest.

Have Fun

Go bowling, dancing, swimming or even rollerskating and shake out those muscles that have tightened up with all those ‘demands.’ If you need something that is free and doesn’t require a baby sitter, you could do “You Make Me Laugh.” You just start laughing until you get your spouse to giggle which will make you laugh more and the funny infection begins. Kids love this one.

Get Positive

Set aside an hour a day where you agree that all is fine and feel what life is like in that reality (you’ll probably increase the hour pretty quickly!).  You can talk out loud with each other about all the amazing things that are happening in your ‘perfect life.’ “Oh honey, shall we go to Santa Barbara for the weekend? Shall we take the Porsche and cruise up the coast with the top down?”

Express Gratitude

List all the amazing things you have going for you. Once you start writing this list you’ll have trouble stopping, that is, if you’re honest. Many people do this ‘Gratitude Exercise’ first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or both!

Fall In Love Again

Play the ‘Pre-Sleep Mutual Appreciation Game.’ A friend told me about this and every time I do this with my husband we each fall a little more in love with each other. And that’s important since during stressful times, or demanding times, couples can easily fall out of love multiple times a day!

Reconnect before you sleep by taking turns to list at least three things about your partner that you really appreciate or that made you feel great that day. It’s as simple as telling your spouse how much you loved watching him/her help your daughter with her homework or how he/she gave you a kiss after you stubbed your toe.

You have the power to embrace any demanding situation with strength, courage and trust that you can overcome the odds and find peace within the challenge.