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The Hidden Cause of Stress in Your Marriage

Your husband’s working your last nerve.

Your kids are comparing you to Thanos from the Avengers.

You’re starting to really need that glass of wine after work.

And focus? What’s that?

Stress. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married 2 years or 20, if you’ve got young or adult kids, if you’re in a same sex or opposite sex relationship. It affects all marriages...

When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to be hypersensitive, overreact (who, me?), and prolong arguments. What’s more, stress in marriage isn’t just bad for the marriage - it’s terrible for our health. Researchers have noted that the impact of marital stress on health is "similar in magnitude to more traditional risk factors" like physical inactivity and smoking.

Translation: high marital stress can lead to higher blood pressure, high cholesterol, and higher body mass indexes. And a study of nearly 300 women with heart disease published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that marital stress -- by itself -- nearly tripled the risk of heart surgery, heart attacks, or death in the following five years. Yikes!

Having stress is part of life. But stress doesn’t have to take you, or your marriage, down. Please know that we are not making light of what might be real issues in your marriage. But it’s possible that at least some of the stress you’re feeling could actually be from things other than your marriage. Here are 2 things to consider:


1. Recognize the impact your job stress has on your marriage. Job stress is at a high right now, with long hours, health and safety concerns, and worries of layoffs. And because we spend more time at our jobs than just about anything else, it’s pretty darn hard to leave the stress of work at work. (And almost impossible when you’re working from home.) Signs of work-related stress can be like other signs of stress: anxiousness, irritability, and decreased interest in sex, to name a few. If you find yourself feeling any of these things at home, ask yourself if it could be job related.

If it is, look to find ways to lower your stress, like exercising or reaching out to a professional (many companies offer free counseling services through their Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”). You can’t take away all the stressors of your job, but realizing the impact they’re having on you and your spouse is a good place to start. Even if there’s no “answer” right now, admitting to your spouse that you’re feeling stressed out by work can help.


2. Know the difference between a marriage issue and a roommate issue. This piece of advice - given to me by my husband’s cousin on my wedding night- has spared me from many a trivial argument. And if you’re home with your spouse 24/7 right now, it might help you too.

Here’s how to tell: Ask yourself if the annoyance or grievance you’re feeling right now is caused by your marital relationship, or if it’s caused by the fact that you happen to live with another human being. Sometimes the lines get blurred, but if you ask yourself the question, you’ll probably know the answer.

A marriage issue might be, for example, your husband not respecting your boundaries, or not telling you about a large purchase he made. A roommate issue might be the way he leaves the kitchen a mess. Or your husband telling you that you talk very loudly during zoom calls while he’s trying to work from the other room (this might have been said to me yesterday).

Not only is the severity of the affront different, but how we respond emotionally is too. Roommate issues generally don’t feel like as big of a deal. If a roommate left the kitchen a mess, I’d ask her to clean up after herself. If a roommate told me I was being loud, I’d apologize and offer to keep it down. See if you can have the same reaction if the roommate is your spouse.

If you can differentiate between a marriage issue and a roommate issue, you can save yourself a lot of needless arguments. Stress level, lowered.


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