Tag Archives: adversity in marriage

How Stress Can Help Your Marriage

stress morguefile While it was not a stress-free summer for my marriage, it wasn’t a bad time either. I’ve seen several reports that indicate some stress can actually be good for us and for our marriages, and I have to say I agree in some respects.

In my case, the stressors were outside the marriage, and I think that makes a big difference in staying positive. My husband was in training in another city for several months, meaning date nights were out of the question, and even 15-minute phone calls a day were usually not available. Instead, the kids and I made the best with one or two day visits, or longer when that was possible. I think we viewed it more of a family challenge to handle the circumstances in the best way we could, knowing it would be best for the family in the long run.
Now, three months is much different than an 18-month deployment by a soldier. And unfortunately, a recent RAND Corp. study showed long and frequent deployments hurt military marriages, often leaving them feeling disillusioned. The longer the deployment, the greater the risk of divorce, it said. Often, it had to do with unmet expectations. “Couples who married before 9/11 just didn’t expect that deployments were going to be amped up,” said the study author. Read the study details here. Thankfully, resources are available to help support military marriages, as well as help from family and friends.

Other stressful events that can impact marriages may have to do with traumatic life-events, which 75 percent of us face at one time in our lives. In fact, in a given year, 20 percent of people are likely to experience some kind of a trauma in their life, according to The Greater Good Science Company. So, the odds are not in favor us living free of pain and suffering.

How can we either insulate our marriage from the negative effects of stress, or somehow extract some positive from the experience?

Be a Team
As much as I hate sports analogies, teaming up with your spouse against the problems you face is critical. None of us wants to feel alone, particularly when things are difficult. We went to be heard and have our feelings validated. We want to be encouraged and cheered on. During my husband’s stressful training, we sent him a barrage of encouraging cards and notes to let him know we were behind him. If financial stress is a problem, the couple must work together to attack it bit by bit. “We will get through this together,” is the message that is expressed, whether “this” means a serious illness, a loss of a loved one, a robbery, a job loss, etc.

One couple I interviewed who grew close after being very argumentative early in their marriage describe the shift as moving from opposite sides of the tennis net to playing side by side against an opponent. We as married people have to feel like our spouse is on our side in life.

Even if you can’t physically be together, you can feel like you’re a team, each playing an important family role, and each respected and valued.

Look for Growth Opportunities
“Our success and happiness depend on our ability not just to cope with (stress) but to actually grow because of it,” says Christine Carter from The Greater Good. She explains that the stress we experience as a result of adversity—and how we respond to that stress—tends to predict how much we will benefit from it. The individuals who benefit and grow the most are NOT the ones who are able to avoid the stress. Those who grow the most are the ones who may be shaken up, and then grow as a result.

In my experience, I would agree that people I have known who have overcome cancer or faced dire circumstances often have a unique perspective and wisdom about what is truly important.

And many of the couples I interviewed for First Kiss to Lasting Bliss experienced a great amount of adversity but grew together as a result. That is not to say your spouse must be your only support system in times of stress and need—certainly not. Friends, family, pastors, doctors, neighbors and others in your life often want to help when you are facing a tough time, and they can be part of the learning and growth process when we are ready to make those advances.

It kind of stinks that it takes tough times to truly grow and appreciate the good times, but isn’t that truly the case?

If day-to-day stress is affecting your marriage due to over-scheduling, family conflict, household disorganization, etc., then take action to address the issues. This kind of stress will deplete health reserves and will rarely offer growth opportunities.

What has caused the most growth in your marriage?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Download New E-book: 10 Secrets to Marital Happiness

Many of you have asked me to compile some of the most important marriage advice into a useful resource that you can share with others. Today, you can download Marriage Gems: 10 Secrets to Marital Happiness at no cost. I’m interested in your feedback on what you consider to be the most important factors or secrets to a happy marriage. Did I leave out any you consider to be essential? What’s your favorite of the ten?

Please pass it on to your friends or family by linking them to this blog post or here. You’ll also see on the page that you can share the e-book via FaceBook, Twitter or other tools, as well as comment on it. I want to thank my amazing designer and great friend Sharron Wright, who helped me make this book stunningly beautiful. (Visit her blog Moms with Grace.) I hope you enjoy the e-book and share it with anyone whom you think would benefit.

In addition to this new e-book, I’ve also added other marriage resources to my blog, including a list of blogs I enjoy, a directory of pro-marriage therapists, and a list of useful marriage books. In case you’re wondering, no one is paying me to recommend any of these resources. Just scan the new pages at the top of the home page to locate them.

If you aren’t a regular subscriber, please consider doing so either via email or RSS in the top right column. We’d love to have you join the conversation here about what challenges you in marriage and what lights your fire.

Marriage Often Follows the Unplanned Route

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  
I took the one less traveled by,  
And that has made all the difference. –Robert Frost

 

A young, married blogger friend has written eloquently and honestly about her recent struggle to become pregnant, and her search for her current marriage identity as she awaits their desired child. It called to mind so many interviews with wise couples who have walked the unplanned path in marriage. Kathleen graciously offered me a guest post so I could share these thoughts with her readers. The wisdom I learned from these couples may be able to give insight to other struggles you may face.

The following post was published Feb. 3rd at www.ProjectMonline.com.

During the last two years, I’ve interviewed happily married couples who improved their marriage through adversity. If you ask around, you’ll find nearly every marriage eventually faces adversity. All are changed by it. Some marriages use it as a catalyst for unity or growth, and some are so devastated they do not survive.

Their stories convey that life does not always (or even usually) go as planned. They all had a vision for how their life would go, and the vision was far easier than the reality. That is not to say that having a plan didn’t help some of them get back on track, but we don’t control when life veers us off our planned route.

When these couples got married—some more than a few decades ago—they didn’t plan on having a child with autism, or learning their husband was addicted to drugs. They didn’t plan on having a miscarriage or struggling for 12 years with infertility. They didn’t plan on being separated for three years during a war, or suffering from depression or cancer. They didn’t plan on periods where the passion leaked out of their relationship. They didn’t plan on overcoming infidelity or recovering from stranger rape. They didn’t plan on losing their bank accounts and real estate assets in a financial crisis. They didn’t plan on their parents not supporting their marriage because of the color of their spouse’s skin. They didn’t plan on having their own baby die in their arms.

The couples I interviewed experienced all of these things. They didn’t just survive; they became great love stories of resilience and hope. I share their stories, their failings, and their near failures, because I think we doubt we could survive given the same obstacles. We think they must be somehow better than us. When we follow their stories, we learn how success is possible.

Thankfully, most of us (we hope) will not experience the level of crisis many of them did. But don’t kid yourself into thinking your marriage will be easy and bump-free, that there will be no valleys next to the hills. Even when things do go right eventually, they often don’t go right in our perfect timing.

For many of these couples, the depth of the valleys only heightened their hilltop experiences. For example, the couple who was infertile for 12 years now has three children (one adopted, two born naturally). They don’t take any minute of time with their children for granted, and they created a ministry to support other couples struggling with infertility. The couple who overcame infidelity now teaches other couples how to affair-proof their marriages. They completely rebuilt their marriage into something much stronger than before and have a love and passion most would envy.  Even the couples who lost children said the painful lessons in their lives have taught them immeasurable lessons—and that they wouldn’t go back and remove the pain if it removed what they had learned. I was truly amazed by the grace shown by them.

Another lesson coming out of this: When you are tempted to be jealous of an especially unified or loving couple, be aware that they have probably traveled some rough roads together to get there. You have no idea of their journey, so don’t be envious of their destination. You also don’t know the pain they may be hiding.

All these couples did plan to spend their lives together. That’s one plan that worked out—as a result of their commitment, love and hard work. While they didn’t always come together initially, they did become more unified by learning their spouse understood their suffering better than anyone else. Their bonds were strengthened; their love was heightened.

If you are facing difficulty in your life, share your sorrows and challenges with your mate so he or she can walk through it with you. Consider that this valley, while you would never choose it, may be something that makes you stronger as a person and as a couple.

Lori Lowe is writing a narrative nonfiction book called First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: How to Improve Your  Marriage through Adversity. She also blogs at www.LifeGems4Marriage.com. Lori has been happily married to her husband, Ming, for 14 years. They live in Indianapolis with their two children, a crazy cat and two aquatic frogs.