Do you feel that you do not have enough time in a day or time for yourself or your spouse? Do feelings of irritability, frustration, or tension cloud interactions with your spouse? Do you find yourself wondering why simple discussions turn into major arguments or how emotions get so out of control? Are you feeling more reactive, envious, or defensive?

Keeping stress from negatively impacting your marriage is a two-fold process of 1) being able to identify your individual and marriage stress symptoms, and 2) learning to better monitor and manage your individual and marriage stress levels.

Symptoms of stress overload

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Lapses in judgment
  • Excessive worry
  • Negative thinking

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Emotional over reactions
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Depression and apathy
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling lonely or isolated

Physical Symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, heart palpitations
  • Decrease sex drive and impotency

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Over or under eating
  • Over or under sleeping
  • Social withdrawal
  • Neglecting home or work duties
  • Increase use of alcohol or drugs

Spiritual Symptoms:

  • Pessimism and negative outlook
  • Underlying disquiet and restlessness
  • Feeling God is distant and uninvolved
  • Lapse in former spiritual practices
  • Loss of interest in spiritual matters

Relationship Symptoms:

  • Increased arguments and sarcasm
  • Feeling unappreciated and alone
  • Flight into distraction or passive activities
  • Emotional distancing and viewing pornography
  • Decrease in affection and sexual intimacy

Stress solutions for marriage

These are some key strategies for better managing the effects of stress on your marriage:  

  1. Understand your own stress reactions and stress tolerance. Make an inventory of your stress coping strengths and vulnerabilities as an individual and together as a couple. Commit to learning ways to increase your capacity and resiliency to manage stress from within and without. Reevaluate your goals and priorities. Acknowledge your losses and limitations. Realize increasing stress tolerance and coping is a lifelong project that enfolds our mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and social realms of functioning.
  2. Develop a strong support network. This is the greatest protection against negative stress impact. Your spouse is your primary ally and companion in the shared journey of marriage. Life’s pressures and problems do not seem as overwhelming when you and your spouse have each other and trusted family and friends that you can count on for emotional and practical supports.
  3. Recognize stress over flow into your marriage. Realize that at the end of a long, stressful day one or both partners’ cup may be over flowing capacity with stress build up. Learn to identify when it is your stress speaking. Take the necessary measures to de-stress from your work day and not allow stress over flow to run havoc in your marriage. [1]
  4. Make your home a safe haven and sanctuary from the external factors of stress. Take your partner’s side against opposition (even if seems unreasonable at the time), express a “we against them” alignment with your spouse, validate emotions, communicate understanding, express affection [2], preserve couple and family time, create a calm and uncluttered environment, pamper your partner.
  5. Pray together daily as a couple. Let God know your needs. He cares and wants to be invited in to support your marriage. Recite together with Jesus his prayer, "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation” and entrust your marriage needs to His promise “And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” [3]

Stress coping for Christian couples

Jesus in his humanity did not exempt or make himself immune from the effects of stress. In the gospel account of the agony in the garden, Jesus experienced the debilitating effects of acute stress – mental agony, emotional and physical distress, soulful sorrow, and a sense of isolation as his companions came up short in supporting his human need. [4]  

Jesus invites us to turn to him during stressful periods and situations that arise in our marriages – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." [5]

Does this sound too spiritual to be relevant to your situation? Remember, Jesus walked the same earth as we do today in our marriages; only the cultural context has changed.

God’s perspective = balanced perspective

What God promises in the person of Jesus is his personal touch and faithfulness. The more we join our burdens with his “yoke”, by turning to him in our struggles, we allow God’s grace, i.e., supernatural help, to make up what is lacking. God’s grace will help to transform our attitudes, our relationship with our spouse, and our situations for the good of our marriage. With God’s help we will be better able to keep a balanced perspective during stressful periods. Over time there will arise a growing confidence and assurance that God truly is the third Person in our marriage and has an active stake in the successful living out of our marriage vows.  

For those times that as a husband or wife that we find ourselves coming up short, Jesus extends to us his human empathy and divine help - “For we have not a high priest [Jesus] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, …Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” [6]

The key is turning to Jesus in our need as Christian spouses, no matter how incidental, overwhelming, or immediate the need for a fix or relief may seem. God is practical in bringing about needed supports and resources, along with his strength and endurance. 

Don’t go it alone. God has given us an ATM card to make unlimited withdrawals on the deposit of grace that he made when we exchanged our sacramental wedding vows.

David Grobbel, L.M.S.W. Associate Director, Marriage and FamilyArchdiocese of Detroit


  1. Gottman, John M. PhD and Silver, Nan, The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, pp. 37-38 (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999)
  2. The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, pp. 188-189.
  3. Luke, Chapter 11: 2-4, 9-11 (RSV)
  4. Matthew, Chapter 26: 36-46 (RSV)
  5. Matthew, Chapter 11: 28-30 (RSV)
  6. Hebrews, Chapter 4: 15-16 (RSV)