If you are recently married or thinking about getting married, it can be easy to get caught up with the idea of marriage and the good times you anticipate having. But what about when the inevitable bad times hit? Will you be ready to cope when they do?
For many couples, infertility can create a lot of anguish due to the incredible stress fertility treatment can put on a marriage. The question is, will that stress necessarily cause a couple to divorce? Recent research says no.
In a study of more than 40,000 women, Dr. Mariana Martins, a psychology professor at the University of Porto in Portugal, found that fertility treatment does not increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Martins instead attributes the “security of relationships” to a couple remaining committed to seeing through their infertility issues.
Over the course of the 16 years during which the study spanned, around 20 percent of couples who had children via assisted reproductive treatment separated or divorced vs. 22 percent who did not. The risk of breakups is, as Martins concludes, due to childlessness instead.
Though specific to couples battling childlessness, the research raises an important issue, and that is how a husband and wife can support each other during difficult times, whether they are facing infertility or any other problem causing them stress. In other words, how a couple copes with a trying situation can either make or break a couple, literally.
As with any other situation, the best way to deal with a stressful situation, whatever that may be, is to prepare for it as best you can before it happens. Here are my 10 suggestions for coping with stress during a marriage.
1. Communicate. Be open with your spouse about what you are thinking and feeling. Do not expect your spouse to be able to read your behavior as he or she can easily misinterpret it, creating distance between you. Whatever the trouble is, you can deal with it. But the first step must be facing your problems head on, together.
2. Be a team player. And by together, I mean behaving as a team player. Stress easily divides and conquers, so treat it like the enemy that it is and play fair. That means supporting each other’s hopes and dreams (without compromising your own) and never undermine your partner, especially publicly.
3. Do not point fingers. Teammates do not point fingers at each other when things go wrong. Blaming each other for circumstances beyond your control or mistakes (yours or someone else’s) will get you nowhere fast or set you back further.
4. Display affection. Even if you are feeling bad, try and be there for your partner. A hug or a touch can do wonders for keeping you connected to your partner. Sex is one way, not the only way to stay close to your spouse. Explore other options besides that one.
5. Spend time alone. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult period, we need to be alone and process our feelings. Do not be afraid to take a step back and spend time by yourself. Let your partner know that is what you are doing, so they do not receive your distance as a slight.
6. Relieve pressure from your spouse. Whatever you are going through, try not to use your husband or wife as a crutch. Turn to others for love, care, and support, giving your partner some much-needed time to breathe. Stress can cause people to break. Relieve them and allow them to regroup before that happens.
7. Take care of yourself. While being mindful of taking pressure off of your spouse, try to take pressure off yourself, too. That means exercise self-care however you can. Whether it is by eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, or going for a hike, remember, you need to be strong to deal with the issues you are.
8. Keep things in perspective. Some stressors are worse than others, and it can be helpful to take a step back and evaluate your current situation from time to time. Are things that bad? Are they improving? Each of us is guilty at one time or another of overreacting. Determine if this is one of those occasions.
9. Get help. If you find that you are having difficulty coping with stress, consider seeing a mental health professional for assistance. Set up appointments not only for you but also for you and your spouse together. After all, you are there to support one another, in good times and bad.
10. Stay positive. No one ever said life would be easy. But the good part about it is that situations can improve, even when you do not think it is possible. Just as events can often get worse, they can also get better. Keep your stress level in check, so you can be around for each other when that happens. After all, isn’t that what you vowed to do?