I saw a news article today that said, “Husbands cause their wives more stress than their children!” My first thought was, “of course they do!”
But, the reasons given in the article seemed like rather superficial ones to me. Important, but nothing devastating like addiction or adultery. It made me realize how important how we see our husbands is…and how husbands see their wives!
I love my husband–a lot. He makes my heart pound. Occasionally he’ll say the most wonderful, impromptu thing that makes my mental train–which, let’s be honest, is more like a team of unbroken horses careening wildly off a cliff–stop dead in its tracks. These little moments re-solidify me onto a firm foundation. They are restorative: helping me re-establish balance when all the responsibilities in my life set me spinning.
Why are they restorative? Because it isn’t the romance, the intimacy, the fun, the long conversations, or the laughing–all of which I so cherish–that is really able to alleviate the stress of our lives and our children. It’s the partnership.
Kids = Stress
I think this is inevitable: if you’re invested in molding your children into healthy, happy adults, you will, at some point, be stressed by your children’s willful rebellion. Even the greatest kids in the world cause their parents stress!
When our spouse is our partner, that stress is alleviated by an equal sharing of the burden. The stress is diffused because it’s shouldered equally. We can, as partners, listen to one another’s concerns, fears and frustrations; then commiserate, reflect, possibly even strategize. Sometimes, if we’re really fortunate, we’re even able to throw a little humor into the situation!
I want my daughter to grow up to be a strong woman–
I just need to be able to live with her in the meantime.
Do we really see our spouses as partners?
For five years, the First Day of School was something of a challenge in my house. I was a single-mom and a full-time teacher. While I was in my classroom welcoming and easing anxieties of others’ kids, I was worried about my own. Last August I was ready for more of the same: stress, anxiety, worry. I had become so accustomed to it, I didn’t plug my new husband into our equation.
The First Day of School last year, my husband was up before me, picking our high school daughter up from her before-school Seminary program and carpooling other girls to school. He took our 2 boys to get haircuts first thing in the morning, then dropped them off at their respective schools. He did all this without me saying a word, because he saw himself as my partner and we worked equally together.
“Marriage, in its truest sense, is a partnership of equals, with neither exercising dominion over the other, but, rather, with each encouraging and assisting the other in whatever responsibilities and aspirations he or she might have.”Gordon B. Hinckley
When partnerships break down
If there is a breakdown in the partnership, I can see how a husband (or wife) could be a greater source of stress than our children. The very word “partner” implies that it takes two: two individuals equally invested, equally determined to lift the burdens of the other. Without that, the heavy-lifting, the stress, and the resentment all increase.
Kids are…well, kids. They think they’re indestructible. They have huge dreams with weak foundations. And their prefrontal cortexes are all jacked up so they make stupid choices! (Don’t believe me? Check this out: https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/teenage-brain1.htm)
When you don’t have a co-parent equally invested in your children, someone you can say, “tag! you’re it!” because you know they can handle this mini-rebellion with more tact and grace than you can, the stress compounds.
You’re no longer operating from a firm foundation with your partner, you’re standing in quicksand…alone. You’re drowning in stress and you’re looking at your spouse thinking, “you’re supposed to be helping me with this!”, and the resentment builds.
Then, every thing your husband (or wife) does causes you stress, because you’re already operating from a base foundation of stress.
The good news is, when both individuals are willing, an imbalanced partnership is easier to repair than some of the greater devastations that can afflict a marriage. In my very humble opinion, the repair starts with two things:
- Humility. Confess your feelings of resentment. Admit your wrongs. Apologize. But be prepared! The great irony when we’re feeling isolated and stressed is that often our spouse is feeling the exact same. Don’t be offended if he admits to such feelings. Stay humble and listen.
- Gratitude really is my go-to solution for a multitude of problems. When was the last time you genuinely thought about all the things your partner does that you’re grateful for? Even if you start your list out a little snarky…”I’m so grateful he washed our laundry and forgot to put it in the dryer”…if you’re determined enough to see the good, you’ll feel your heart soften.
Nurture Your Partnership
Nurture that partnership. Commiserate, listen, cry, and laugh together. The stresses of life will never go completely away. But having someone to share the burden lightens the load.
I’m guessing you married your husband because of all the things he made you feel: happy, treasured, loved, peaceful. But, he also made you feel balanced, secure, and understood–the hallmarks of a true partnership.
Stop seeing your husband as your biggest stressor. Instead, cultivate a partnership until they are your biggest support. Then, when the storms of life come, you can stand peaceably under the umbrella together, stronger in your unity, confident in your mutual determination to be happy.