How to Maintain Stability in Your Marriage During Hectic Times
- Betsy de Cruz Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2018 14 Nov
My husband and I have experienced our share of stressful times during 23 years of marriage, and we’ve gone through seasons where stress caused us to either drift apart or constantly be at each other’s throats. Like our recent trans-Atlantic move back to America. After weeks of sorting, packing, cleaning, and saying goodbye to friends, we finally got on a plane and breathed a sigh of relief. We figured we’d finally get a few days to rest.
Instead, a nagging shoulder pain became severe during the flight and landed me in the emergency room on our first day back. Although we’d planned a week to rest and recover, we ended up spending that week making phone calls, filling out paperwork, and going to doctors. All while jet lagged.
One thing encouraged me. I realized we’ve gradually gotten better at navigating hectic seasons as a couple. Here’s what we’re still learning after 23 years of going through both happy and stressful times together...
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Love God First
Only when we make God our first love can we be the mates our spouses need. Yet when life gets stressful, we often let go of prayer, Bible reading, and church attendance.
Jesus said that the secret to a fruitful life is abiding in Him: "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).
He also said that the most important commandment is "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). After that comes the second command to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we do not make loving God a priority, we cannot love our spouses well.
For my husband and me, the most important thing we can do for our marriage is to take a few minutes each day to read Scripture and pray to ask God to fill us with His love and give us wisdom for the day. It truly makes a difference in how we are able to handle difficult times.
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Honor Your Relationship by Giving it Priority
In my marriage, I have seen how tempting it is to let our relationship slide during stressful seasons. Before our last move, a counsellor challenged us by asking, "What are some things you can do to honor your marriage relationship during this time?" We came up with a short list that included date time twice a month.
When we determine to keep investing in our marriage even during our busiest seasons, we can continue growing as a couple. Even the most hectic time is made sweeter by a growing relationship that withstands hardship. Take a few minutes each day to invest in each other. Determine to make your marriage an important priority in any season!
Avoid Stress with a Weekly Marriage Meeting
Overloaded schedules and conflicting plans cause stress in a marriage. My husband and I have a weekly marriage meeting to make sure we're on the same page. At the start of our 45-minute meeting, we pray together, and each one gives an update on how we are doing. We then spend most of the time discussing our plans for the week ahead. We make decisions and write family plans and joint activities into our calendar. We also discuss our individual plans when they affect the other spouse.
Proverbs 21:5 says, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty." The context is material wealth resulting from planning and work, but in the same way, good planning leads to abundance in our relationships.
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Make the Main Things the Main Things
Whether you feel up to your ears in life due to a swamped schedule, or traumatized by trial and hardship, it's important to discuss and determine as a couple your essential priorities. It's better to make sure you are accomplishing the main things important to both of you than to spin your wheels trying to do so much that you don't have time for each other or your family.
Spend time with your mate to pray and talk over what your family needs during your present season. Maybe you need to let go of a few activities to make more time with the kids. Maybe your family is going through trauma, and you need to focus on the bare minimum to get by and adequately care for each other and your family.
When life gets busy and we go into overdrive, it's easy to barrel through without really listening to each other. Our minds race with details of what we need to do, or we allow social media to distract us. Taking time to lock eyes and listen carefully to our mate communicates honor. It also avoids the stress of conflict that arises by not listening in the first place (ask me how I know).
During a marriage meeting or important discussion, focus on listening to your mate rather than thinking ahead to how you can get your point across. Listening builds the relationship and helps us understand our spouse's point of view.
After attending a marriage conference last year, my husband and I rediscovered the power of holding hands. Although we sometimes held hands on walks together, we had mostly let that simple gesture of unity fall by the wayside during our daily life. We're still learning, but now we often grasp hands at church, while watching television, or even during a long traffic light in the car.
Holding hands is a simple physical demonstration of togetherness. Especially during busy seasons, physical touch is an easy investment to make in our relationships. A hug, a kiss, or a simple touch on the shoulder communicate caring and love. Perhaps the benefits go beyond what we imagine. According to a 2014 article from Psychology Today, couples who touch each other more resolve conflicts more easily.
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Keep Dating Your Mate
Taking time to talk and enjoy fun activities lessens stress and keeps your relationship healthy. My husband and I have experienced first hand how easy it is to let regular date times slide during seasons when we feel overloaded. Yet we've also seen how making time to walk by the beach or try out a new coffee shop remind us that the season we’re in will pass, yet our relationship will remain.
In the months leading up to our international move, we were swamped with commitments and responsibilities, yet some of my best memories of our last months overseas were our date nights. They were like a breath of fresh air for our harried lives.
Speak Words of Encouragement and Appreciation
Proverbs 16:24 speaks a good word to frazzled marriages: "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." We've all experienced how an encouraging word relieves stress. A kind word from our spouse can restore us from the negative effects of a bad day. Even when life gets busy, it's important to continue giving each other the gift of kind words.
What do you appreciate about your mate? What good qualities do you see in her? What small thing did he do to help you this week? Let's make the effort to encourage our mates verbally and fight the temptation to take them for granted. Positive words of affirmation build our mates up and renew gratitude in our own hearts.
Instead of shutting down and going into survival mode during chaotic seasons of life, make an effort each evening to focus on your spouse for a few minutes and ask how his or her day went. Kiss her when she walks in the door or give him a hug after dinner. Linger together alone or with the kids for ten minutes after dinner to talk just because you want to communicate that you enjoy each other’s company.
Small, daily efforts to reconnect add up to a close relationship that withstands even the stressful times. Pray together for five minutes before bed or in the morning. Call her at work to ask how she is or send him a text to say you can’t wait for him to get home. You’re making deposits in your relationship.
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”(Ephesians 4:3, NLT)
During hectic times when we feel overwhelmed and overloaded, it’s tempting to let our marriages slide to the back burner, but healthy couples keep a long-term perspective and continue investing in their relationship. It’s good to remember the stressful season we’re in now will end, but the small steps we take to care for our marriage build a strong foundation that will endure and help us weather hard times together.
Betsy de Cruz writes to encourage women to get more of God’s Word in, so they can live their faith out, especially when life gets bumpy and crazy. You can find Betsy on her blog, faithspillingover.com, where she shares Bible study and prayer tips for distracted women, as well as encouragement for everyday faith and family. Subscribers to Betsy’s blog receive 10 Days to More,a free guide with 10 devotional Bible study techniques. You can also find Betsy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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Publication date: November 14, 2018