ThisClose to Letting Stress Ruin Our Marriage

Getting personal again today.  I’m so thankful for my husband and our relationship.  We’ve been together since our late teen years.  And since we started dating so young, we’ve had to navigate the ins and outs of life together.  We’ve always loved each other, but our relationship hasn’t always been a walk in the park. Soon after getting married, our stresses piled up quickly.  It was one of the most trying times in our relationship.

After getting married to my sweetheart, I moved from a city and job that I loved. We moved to a crowded town where I felt I didn’t quite fit in. I tried but couldn’t figure out how to make friends. I had a 45-minute commute one direction, while my husband had an hour commute another direction. My new job had low moral and low pay.

As newlyweds, we bought a house that was too expensive for us. Within a year, the housing market dropped.  At one point, our home was about $100k underwater.  We were financially stuck.

We miscarried our very beloved first pregnancy. When we had a successful pregnancy a little over a year afterwards, our first daughter had colic and cried much more than babies should cry.  We didn’t live near any family to help, and my social support was basically non-existent.

My husband deployed to Iraq off and on throughout these years. And once he finally switched to where he didn’t need to deploy, his work required swing shifts and weekends. The schedule was set up on some algorithm that I never figured out. I had to keep a copy of his schedule so I’d know when and what shifts he was working.

It was an extremely stressful time of my life. After typing everything up just now, it makes a LOT of sense why I was having such a hard time. But at the time, I felt so guilty for having good things bring me down.

After all, I was married to the love of my life. I had a job in a down economy. We had a house with plenty of room for a small family. We had a healthy baby. And we had the ability to earn extra money to make ends meet by my husband deploying overseas and having that wonky work schedule.

I tried so hard to look at the positive in the situation, but that really wasn’t enough. I could feel that my marriage was slipping, that we needed to make some major changes to keep our relationship intact. We’ve always loved each other, but love alone is not always enough to keep a relationship from dissolving.

We needed drastic changes.  As soon as I found out I was pregnant the first time, I quit my job. This immediately removed the stress of my commute and the stress from the job itself. Unfortunately, I miscarried that pregnancy soon after quitting. That was devastating, and I’m sure I’ll detail that part of my life in at some other time. Financially, I was only able to quit my job because my husband deployed. Between deployments and the miscarriage, my stress levels after quitting my job didn’t change as much as I had hoped.

Eventually, I got pregnant again and had a beautiful baby girl. During this time, I met a lot of other moms.  These women often seemed so different from me. I was a small rural girl.  I came from a town with one stop light.  Now I lived in a very affluent community, where money was plentiful and spent frivolously. I struggled with my identity and accepting the fact that I was no longer in a small town.  Even so, I still developed friendships, and the longer I lived in that town, the more I felt I fit in.  My friendships deepened, and my stress levels lowered.

I learned a lot from these moms, including a healthier way of eating. I learned how to cook real food, and I tried all sorts of vegetables I had never had before. Having a healthier diet made a huge difference in my mood levels too.

Things were looking up.  My husband began actively networking to look for different jobs that paid more. We suffered through the deployments and the subsequent wonky work schedule.  We knew it was only temporary and that financially it was the right thing to do.

Once the market was back up to where we could cover the cost between what we owed and what the house would sell for, we considered moving to a new area. By the time this happened, we had been living in that town around 7 years, and I finally felt like I had found my place in it.  I had a great group of friends and neighbors. I had let go of the idea of ever moving from that area. We were finally in a position where we didn’t worry about making ends meet.

On the other hand, our family had grown, now with three daughters, and we lived next to a major highway with a few odd neighbors.  So we decided to look in our same town for a more suitable home for our growing family.

Coincidentally, at the same time, a colleague contacted my husband and said he knew of a job perfect for my husband. The job was in a town much closer to both my parents and my husband’s parents. The job would have a shorter commute, and the town would have a lower cost of living. Within a week from that phone call, we took a leap of faith.  My husband accepted the job. We moved into our new home in our new town exactly 4 days before my oldest daughter started Kindergarten.

It hasn’t been completely stress-free, and it took YEARS to get to this point. But eventually we drastically reduced our stress-load.  We have a beautiful house (that we can afford!) in a lovely little neighborhood with space for the girls to play outside. Everyone in the neighborhood waves, and strangers chat with you while you are out and about in town.

We are financially secure. My husband has a typical 40-hour work week with a whopping 10-minute commute, 12-minutes if he is stuck behind a tractor. I’m blessed to be able to stay home with my girls, to enjoy their milestones, and to love on them as much as I want throughout the day.

I’ve tweaked my healthy diet even more to avoid sugar, which makes a WORLD of difference in my mood stability. I started getting regular stress-busting exercise in my life.  And my girls are finally at a stage in life where I can usually get a full night of sleep each night.

My husband and I could have easily thrown in the towel on our relationship while we were under all that stress. And for a long time, I resented my husband for his decisions.  And I resented myself for choosing to go along with him.  Resentment, by the way, is one of the most destructive forces in a relationship.

I always loved him, but I was so unhappy. My husband knew that, and consequently, he wasn’t happy either. We were in a downward spiral that very well could have ended with us splitting ways. Once we decided to honor our wedding vows and persevere, we started working together towards making changes.

I want to make the point that it can take years to make the kinds of changes you might need in your relationship. You might make one positive change only to have two more negative changes happen immediately afterwards. The old one step forward, two steps back is real. And when you are in the thick of an ultra-stressful situation, it feels like it will never end. But you have to keep doing what you can to continue working towards making positive changes. Don’t be discouraged. And give yourself grace to do the best you can in your own situation.

I don’t advocate quitting jobs or moving towns without thoroughly thinking it through and making sure you can swing it financially. Those sorts of changes can put even more stress on a relationship. However, there are times when stresses require drastic changes. Only you can know what’s best for you, so trust you gut instincts. Tell your partner how you really feel, and make sure both of you are on the same page for reducing stress loads.  Above all, remember your wedding vows. Remember why you married each other to begin with. Keep persevering through your trials. And remain hopeful that change is possible.

You must not abandon the ship in a storm because you cannot control the winds. -Sir Thomas More

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