Does stress get in the way of working on your marriage?

During times of stress, working on my marriage can be difficult.

From the rhythms of my professional life (end-of-semester grading) to family crises (health situations and parenting situations) to difficult financial decisions to holidays, I have a tendency to internalize and magnify stress.

Shortly before I began my marriage improvement journey, I realized that I exhibited most symptoms of chronic stress and that I had been experiencing this stress for several years. This had affected the quality of my marriage and my ability to be a good wife. Around this time, I experienced some changes that alleviated some of the stress. This made it easier for me to see what I needed to do in my marriage.

When I was beginning to work on sexual intimacy in my marriage, stressful times made it hard to persist in my commitment to improvement. Over time, this has become less of an issue. The habits I’ve worked on so much have become mostly automatic rather than things I have to be thoughtful and intentional about doing.

Even now, though, I have to be on guard for how stress will affect me in my marriage.

  • Stress means that it takes me longer to get my mind on sex. This means that either we need more time for sex or that sex will be more for my husband than for me. Both of these scenarios can add stress or resentment to my life.
  • My mind tends to be preoccupied, and even one new thing can overwhelm me. It is easy for me to resent normal requests from my husband (even non-sexual ones), and that affects my feelings of generosity.
  • When there are so many things I can’t say no to, it becomes even more tempting to say no to my husband so I have the illusion of control in my life.
  • If you’re an introvert, you’ll completely understand this one: When stress involves being around a lot of people, my need for time completely alone to recharge becomes even more critical. When that time isn’t possible, I begin to feel even more stressed.
  • My body is affected and will exhibit signs of anxiety. I sometimes don’t sleep well. I get so focused on getting through a to-do list that I forget to slow myself down and take the deep breaths that keep a good oxygen flow to my brain. I don’t eat well, either because I forget to eat or because I stress eat.
  • Doing the things that are not my natural inclination become much harder for me. I have to be more intentional about what I’m doing, and sometimes that is tiring.
  • If my husband is stressed at the same time, it becomes more challenging for him to provide the support that I need during my stress, and vice versa. Our individual experiences of stress add to the other’s stress. What’s really fun is that my husband is an extravert. He recharges by being around people and needs me with him more when he is stressed. I, on the other hand, need to be far away from him to recharge. So imagine how much fun that is for us. 🙂

I have found several things that help me continue tending to my marriage when I’m stressed:

  1. God’s Word. My “go-to” Bible verse is Psalm 46:10–“Be still, and know that I am God.” I have some other verses written down that I go to for some specific stresses. When I find myself starting to feel stressed, I try to say those verses throughout the day to help me focus on God’s truth rather than on my own worries or to-do list. Check out James 1:2-4, John 14:27, Psalm 94:19, and Matthew 11:28-30.
  2. Grace. I allow myself to mess up. I don’t like it, but I accept that when I’m stressed, I’m not at my best. Stress is just for a season.
  3. Prayer. This connects me with God in a way that I desperately need. It also serves to help with some of that private recharging that I need. I can’t face stress without it.
  4. Breathing. I’m talking about deep breaths here. Slowing myself down enough to take some good deep breaths has been essential in learning to deal with stress. Deep breathing calms both my body and my mind.
  5. Sex. Yes, sex. While sex was a stressor a few years ago, it has now become a safe haven for me. Being with my husband reminds me in a visceral way that I am not alone in this journey of life. Sex helps me laugh, breathe deeply, feel loved, and release tension.

How does stress affect you in your marriage? What strategies have you found to help you cope with stress?

December can be a stressful time for many women. If you find yourself in need of prayer to cope with the stress, please let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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