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At any point, each of us is under a certain level of stress. Life isn’t easy, and it affects us in different ways and different capacities. Sometimes stress happens in our lives because of the choices of others. And sometimes—like with me and my husband over the last two years—the stress is a by-product of the choices we have made.

See, in the last two years, we’ve sold and bought a house, stopped fertility treatment, pursued adoption, experienced a failed adoption, finalized an adoption, bought a car, and changed jobs.

Having a child, changing jobs, and buying a house are three of the most stressful times in a person’s life. We decided to knock them all out as quickly as possible. Why not, right?

Under such stress, it can be hard to be sweet to your spouse, or anticipate needs, or keep up with commitments, or even laugh with each other. Stress can weigh you down, affect your countenance, and dampen your spirit.

So what can you do? How can you navigate the stress of life with each other?

1. Pay attention and dial in

I can be in my feelings so much sometimes that I’m barely present during conversations with my husband. With practice, I’ve learned to tell myself to let go of what I’m obsessing over and hear what my husband is saying.

Yes, I talk to myself in my head. It’s what helps me to dial in to myself and my husband. Often, I find that God provides us the ability to give grace and space to each other—when one of us needs to talk, the other is able to listen without tipping the balance of stress.

2. Ask your spouse if you should feel it or fix it

I learned this from Ted Lowe, and shared it with my husband. We felt like we had been handed the golden key to communication! While sharing concerns or disappointments with each other, my husband and I would sometimes offer solutions or empathy that the other person found frustrating.

Once we started asking each other this question, the burden of solving the problem, or the feeling of not being heard was eliminated. In fact, sometimes we’ll start off a conversation with: “I’d like you to feel this, not fix it.”

3. Make an attempt to joke around or be silly

In everyday life, there is a response my husband and I use that sometimes makes us laugh and other times makes us shake our heads. The phrase is: “YOU’RE a ______.” Fill in that blank whatever adjective and noun the other person just used.

It sounds confusing, but it goes like this: “That was a funny commercial,” said the husband. “YOU’RE a funny commercial,” said the wife. “That was kind of a cool design on her shirt,” said the wife. “YOU’RE a cool design,” said the husband. “I like how the light reflects off the water,” said the husband. “I like how YOU reflect off the water,” said the wife.

Just make sure it’s always a compliment. We would never say something like: “That was just an awkward situation,” said the husband. “YOU’RE an awkward situation,” said the wife. Be prepared, it can get super flirty and suggestive, which makes it even more fun!

4. Praying together

There is a different level of intimacy that is experienced when husbands and wives pray together. When you hear the heart of your spouse as he or she talks to the Lord, you can’t help but learn more about them and draw closer to them.

Because of the deeper level of relationship I’ve experienced with my husband, I find that my faith has grown. This unified faith is powerful and revitalizing.

5. Find a way to be sweet

My husband and I pride ourselves on attempting to “out-sweet” each other. Out-sweeting each other means to actively look for ways to anticipate the other’s needs—fixing the coffee first, washing the dishes first, picking up the house first, refraining from eating the last cookie or slice of pizza, etc.

This isn’t easy to do when you’re under stress. But doing things like this is an anchor for our relationship. It keeps us present in the health and growth of our love—something that is often too easily sacrificed during stressful seasons.

No one navigates stress perfectly. We all have our moments, or days, or even weeks when the stress affects our behaviors negatively. Finding space for intentionality helps you and your spouse keep a handle on how stress is affecting your marriage.

Being mindful to pay attention, ask for clarification, lighten up, pray together, and out-sweet each other could make a stressful situation a little easier to navigate.

What are some ways you and your spouse have handled stress effectively?