My husband has been stressed out lately. And it has gradually snowballed into other areas of our lives. His stress created stress for me, which also put pressure on our relationship. Then it felt like we had issues in our marriage, which made us feel even more stressed. All of the sudden I found myself in a position I never thought I’d be in. Thus a negative cycle was created, where one stressor leads to another and then another.
The other day I asked my husband what I could do to support him. When he feels that I’m being supportive, he’s less likely to take his stress out on me, and then we don’t continue the negative cycle. Here are three ways to support your stressed-out husband.
1. Be more patient.
The first thing my husband said when I asked him for his suggestions on how to support him: Give more grace than usual. Wait until the season of stress is over until you get frustrated by the things that would normally frustrate you. My husband was trying to articulate that he had very little capacity to work on other issues until the source of his stress was no longer an issue. He was just in survival mode.
2. Say affirming things.
Be kind to him. Recognize that he needs encouragement. Tell him that you are proud of the way he’s handling things at work, or commend him for making a hard decision. It always helps to recognize what he’s good at. My friend was officiating a wedding for the very first time, and the thing that helped calm his nerves was his wife telling him how good he was at things like that. We all battle feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy at one time or another, and you can help him overcome these negative self-thoughts by affirming him.
3. Be compassionate.
Recognize it’s hard for him right now. Be willing to be a listening ear. Ask him how he’s doing, and be a safe place for him to talk and process his emotions. Being a safe place means that you don’t try to enforce your view or agenda in the situation. The other day my husband and I went on a kayak together, and in the quiet of the lake, I asked him about the stress and about his strategy for dealing with it. I realized that it would have been easy to give him my answers or perspective on it, but that wasn’t what he needed. He just needed me to listen, validate him, and be compassionate.
What are some ways you support your husband when he’s stressed?