MANAGING MARITAL STRESS: a 2020 survival guide


Photo by vera Asric cropped

Photo by Vera Arsic


With social distancing being the order of the day and tons of folk working from home, couples and families are finding themselves spending non-stop time together. No matter how much you love your spouse and kids this non-stop togetherness can get stressful! That stress can lead to conflict.

In our home we have two very strong willed, very different personalities. My husband’s means of coping with stress is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. My coping mechanism is doing creative projects. The two styles couldn’t be more in conflict! Creativity does NOT lend itself well to “everything in its place.” According to Joe, it’s more like chaos in motion. He’s right!

In addition, we have polar opposite processing styles. My husband is a sequential processor. I am a random processor. That means when there is a task to be accomplished, he progresses through the steps in an a-z sequential order. Whereas I pop around the steps in a very random way.

Each style has its strengths and weaknesses. His style makes him world class at logistics. If it takes careful planning to execute, he’s your man! The weakness is, if things can’t be executed sequentially it can really throw a wrench in his works. Because I navigate situations randomly, constantly changing variables don’t throw me off as badly. However, I can miss important details by popcorning around a situation.

The thing is, it takes BOTH styles to manage life on a normal basis. In our COVID dominated environment, having BOTH styles is a HUGE blessing! So, if we are operating with polar opposites, how do we make the most of our differences?

1) Keep in mind that God brought us together as couples for a reason. He knows our personalities, strengths and weaknesses better than we do. He paired us with our spouses deliberately. Our combined differences as people are our strengths as a couple. Our spouse’s polar opposites may be the exact balance needed to mitigate our weaknesses. So, value and respect what you each bring to the table.

2) Marriage needs to be other centered. In the book ” Sacred Marriage” author Gary Thomas suggests that the true purpose marriage is to become more like Christ. Put bluntly, marriage isn’t about meeting my needs. It’s about loving my spouse in the way that Christ loves me and making the needs of another my priority. Keeping the chaos to a minimum may not be the best for my creative process, but it’s good for my husband and our marriage!

Phil 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with an attitude of humility, regard others as more important than yourselves.”

3) As married couples, we aren’t in this alone. We are a threefold cord with God at the center. Eccl. 4:9 says “Two are better than one.” There are going to be times in all this where each of us will falter, fail and fall. Being married means that we have a companion to lift us up when we go down (Eccl 4:10). We have our combined strength to resist the being overpowered by the problems and stresses. We need to lean into and on each other and center ourselves in God.

4) Most importantly, we need to extend each other GRACE. In his marriage devotion “Love Sex and Lasting Relationships” Chip Ingram defines love as “Giving the other person what they need most when they deserve it the least”. This is the ESSENCE of Grace. It is EXACTLY what Christ did for us. He gave up everything, including His life, for the most undeserving people ever! In this time of non-stop togetherness and high stress, we need to extend each other this same kind of grace.

This kind of Grace isn’t easy, but we don’t have to muster it out of our own resources. The Holy Spirit lives in us. He is equipping us with everything we need for life and godliness. He will teach us how to walk in this kind of grace. If we surrender our will to His, He will enable us to give grace even when it’s the last thing we want to do and our marriage will be stronger when this is over!