How to protect a marriage during stressful times.

I am not a couple’s therapist or a marriage counselor. I am not a psychologist. I am a family law attorney and I see couples daily in my line of work ( during video conferencing in the last 6 months) who know how to protect a marriage during stressful times.

And while unfortunately I have clients who are divorcing and I see how marriages have fallen apart, I also meet with couples in the elder law division of my practice who have been happily married for many, many years. (They come to me for advice on wills and estate planning.)

Even strong marriages experience stress when families have been living in nearly total lockdown for over 6 months. And the chagim are fast approaching – Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succot – as well as the uncertainty about whether or not extended families will even be able to celebrate together. This could be a recipe for even more tension and frequent arguments.

We are living in confusing and unpredictable times and strengthening our relationships is one of the ways to help us weather this storm.

So, I would like to share the wisdom from some of my happily, long-married clients on nurturing a relationship and how to protect a marriage during stressful times, (with some of my own comments in brackets). I’m hopeful everyone will find at least some of these tips relevant and helpful.

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  • Say these words to each other every day, “Can I help you?”
  • Say, “Thank you.” Don’t assume your spouse knows that you appreciate what they do for you.
  • Make sure you have your own interests and hobbies that you enjoy doing without your spouse.
  • Don’t let your kids find ways to turn you against each other.
  • Give compliments. Whenever you find the opportunity to compliment your spouse, just do it.
  • Even during tough times, try to have some fun with each other.
  • If you aren’t able to feel gratitude and compassion for your spouse, your relationship isn’t going to survive.
  • Make rules for fighting. Then stick to them, even when you fight. [I loved this one – and the elder lady who said it to me.]
  • Try to give each other a hug or hold hands or snuggle every day.
  • Do things for your spouse without expectations. Try not to get into a ‘this for that’ type of relationship where you measure your giving.
  • If you can’t speak with each other without ending up yelling, then separate and try writing your feelings. [I guess today would be texting or emailing.] Don’t scream and let it turn into a whirlwind.
  • Make a little time to be alone with each other every day for the two of you to be together either talking or doing something you both enjoy, even if it’s only half an hour. This will give your relationship batteries a boost for the times when you can’t take each other.
  • How to protect a marriage during stressful times? Know when to stop and back off. Sometimes when we argue the best thing to do is just walk away and not to continue or allow our spouse to drag us into continuing the argument.
  • Make a date night and stick to it no matter what. [Even during these crazy times when it’s hard to find privacy with everyone home 24/7, it’s a good idea to set aside one night a week where you can enjoy each other’s company after the children are have gone to sleep – watch a movie together, share a glass of wine, etc.]
  • Give each other some alone time. Whether it’s for work or just for wind-down time, relieve your spouse from dealing with the kids or chores. It doesn’t have to be long. If you both have your alone time it will help to lower the tensions between you.
  • Try to recognize the real issue. [In this COVID 19-induced shut down, we’re all in a high-stress situation. Many times, stress is the real source of the argument. Try to identify if that’s the issue – and if so, then don’t blame your spouse.]
  • Don’t laugh at your spouse. Laugh together as much as possible.
  • Be good communicators. Don’t speak at the same time but give each other a turn to talk – even in the middle of an argument – maybe, especially in the middle of arguments.
  • Always remember that you are a team.
  • Remember, something that’s really important to your spouse should be a priority for you, because if they’re happy it’ll be less stressful for them and better for your relationship.
  • Don’t lose sight of the big picture – you are with your spouse because you love them and they may not always be there. Try to remember that.
  • Remember that you have a strong marriage and that together, you’ll be able to survive whatever hurdles you encounter.
  • Remember that your spouse really is your best friend
  • No matter what argument you’re having, never bring up the word “divorce”. Not even in a joking manner.
  • Split the chores and daily tasks with each other – even make a list of who does what on which days.
  • Don’t be embarrassed if one or both of you need to speak to a psychologist. [There are plenty of people doing that during these high-pressure times.]

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I hope that you and your spouse can benefit from some of the tips I’ve collected throughout my years of practice for how to protect a marriage during stressful times. and that they’ll be helpful getting you through these tough times and this High Holiday season.

Wishing all of you and your families a Happy and Sweet New Year!

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