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10 Ways to Help Your Husband Keep Stress at Bay

Katya Bowd

Posted on October 18 2017

Stress takes such a toll on the body. It can wreak havoc on one’s attention span, energy, and motivation. As women, we may have any number of coping mechanisms (read: chocolate). But what about the man in your life? What does he need when life is stressful and he’s having a hard time keeping his chin up? Here are 10 essential tools every wife needs for helping her husband cope with stress and courageously continue moving forward.

Provide a refuge for him.

A critical component in every happy marriage is the security each spouse feels in the home. The rest of the world may be spiraling out of control. But, the home should feel like a safe haven in which he can escape the storms he deals without in the world.

Keep expectations at bay.

His energy may be drained and his mood a bit melancholy, and it’s very likely that talking about the trigger of his stress is not the first thing he needs (or wants) to do. Let that be ok. He will probably want a sounding board at some point. But, men prefer to deal with and think about one thing at a time, in a comprehensive way, rather than multitask by thinking about several things simultaneously. Addressing one thing from start to finish, then putting it away to move on to something else is NOT the way women tend to problem-solve. We tend to think in connections – the hundreds of factors that weigh in on the problem. But what is his problem-solving approach? Probably different from yours – and he is probably aware of this. So, if he is trying to relax, and you can see he is tense, don’t pressure him to open up right away. Let him focus on winding down for a bit instead of expecting an immediate explanation for his stress.

Compliments will brighten anyone’s day.

The immediate need a man does have if he is dealing with high expectations – tight schedules, pressure or criticism – is edification. Build him up with comments that highlight how capable he is, how grateful you are for some task he did last week, how much you love his sexy shoulders, etc. Show him genuine appreciation for something you love about him. It will offset any self-doubt he may be struggling with in other areas of his life.

Go the extra mile.

This is the most important marriage advice on a good day, and even more when your spouse is going through a hard time. Be willing to go the extra mile. If your spouse seems to be slacking in some way, don’t nag or criticize! It will completely undo whatever genuine compliment you give to try and help him feel better. Just try to make up the difference. Stress has a way of draining motivation, so try to be understanding if he doesn’t jump to do the dishes or other jobs around the house. Let it slide, tell him to relax, and offer to help him feel better with a back massage. I repeat no nagging! Does this sound unrealistic? Sexist? It may sound unfair to put so much on the shoulders of wives, except…

You only need to treat him the way you would want to be treated.

Think about it. These are the kinds of things we would do for any close friend who was going through a hard time! You would encourage. You would be there for them when they need to open up. You would try to be a low-maintenance, understanding friend without making a lot of demands on their time and energy because they have enough on their plate, etc., etc.

Treat your husband better than you do your closest gal pals! How do you want to be treated when you are the one who is stressed? Honestly… especially on a monthly basis, this is exactly the kind of lovely treatment that we would enjoy. For the cynical reader, it has to be said. You may be thinking, “Yes, but he would never do all that for me…”

Newsflash: You train other people how to treat you.

If you don’t get loving attention when you are stressed, this tip for a thriving relationship is for you. Habits are not made overnight. Changes in behaviour are not always instantaneous. But given the right encouragement through your example, eventually, they can happen. Nagging? It has a 100% fail rate for producing the desired result from husbands if sincere effort is the goal.

My challenge is to be the example of loving attention in your relationship when he is stressed, expecting nothing in return. Simply be sincere in your efforts to love him with your actions. Make that your mission and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results. For the most successful implementation of this, read on…

Know his triggers for stress, and pay attention when they surface.

Be observant. Watch for trends that produce his most stressed moments. What triggers them? Is it deadlines? Difficult people? Be plugged in, listen, and take note when the usual culprits start coming up in conversation. Then you can anticipate that he may begin to show symptoms of stress, prep yourself for not taking things personally, and have a plan for how to help him.

If stress sometimes promotes arguments between the two of you, the following marital advice will help reduce and even eliminate stress-induced fights. It all starts with a date night…

When he is already stressed really isn’t the best time to ask how you can best help him, because distressed people don’t always know what to ask for. That becomes frustrating! You want to help, but he doesn’t know what he wants. One or both of you pushes harder or begins to isolate, and exasperation starts setting in. Not the ideal scenario. Creating a plan of action for dealing with stress (your own, or his) can come about more easily if you are making time on a regular basis to simply unplug and be together, chatting and investing in the relationship.

In a neutral moment, when things are going well and you’re just chatting over coffee, make your move. Ask an open-ended, thought-provoking question. For example:

“I know this is random, but what one thing could I do that would make a huge difference in helping you relax when you’re feeling super-stressed?”

At first, it may feel unnatural because instead of waiting for the right moment, you are literally creating the opportunity during what may feel like a weird time for such a topic. But, in reality, this is how you set yourself up for success. He has the time and energy to mull it over and answer thoughtfully. It’s a great way to add ideas to your stress-fighting toolbelt and promote intellectual intimacy in the relationship.

Know his favourite ways to unwind, and encourage them.

Now that the well-timed, open-ended conversation has begun (and hopefully occurs frequently, on any difficult subject that comes up in your relationship), you can know exactly what to do when he walks in the door looking fatigued and massaging his temples. Whatever his answer – a backrub, sex, watching a comedy – demonstrate concern and suggest it.

Here’s the real bombshell that will make him feel loved: he will immediately notice that you really listened. That conversation will come right back, even if it was months ago. And that will do immeasurably more than anything other than the effort you make to help him.

Protect your marriage from outside troubles.

In all of this, make sure your marriage is an untouchable anchor. If family is being difficult, put an emphasis on the two of you when you are alone. If work has been unbearable, be his support. A touch of marriage guidance that is humorous, but effective, is to come up with a secret code together (a word or phrase that has a frame of reference for only the two of you) that communicates availability for time in the bedroom. And ladies, be available – the bedroom is where you create a protective wall around your marriage. Invite him there often. Adding humour to this invitation will instantly help melt away some of his tension. Inside jokes are a fabulous way to keep your relationship thriving regardless of what else goes on around you.

Draw him out, and hold the bucket.

It may seem like forever before he is ready to talk about his troubles, or he may be the kind that unloads right away. Just remember, he doesn’t need someone to fix his troubles. Don’t inadvertently give the impression that you don’t think he can handle the solution himself. One couple described the ideal scenario in this way… You don’t need to solve the problem. Just hold the bucket while your spouse throws up in it. He is getting things out his system so he can think about something else again. Be a respectful listener, and only offer advice when asked for it.

Plan a splurge.

After all this considerate, compassionate attention, you have given your spouse a lot of low-pressure breathing room. He can feel like himself again. Nothing is left to do but to suggest a fun treat that you both enjoy. Something in which you don’t often get to indulge. On a budget? Don’t blow it (or you’ll simply add another stressor). Jump online and look for free activities, or simply plan your own little retreat right there in the living room.

All of this may sound like loads of work. Spoiler alert: marriage requires loads of work! But, it’s completely worth it. Take the time, invest in him, be there when he needs you, and before you know it beautiful changes could very well blossom in your relationship. Not the least of which could be the efforts he makes to help when you don’t feel 100%. Turbulence only helps us look for ways to make the ride smoother. This marriage advice helps to keep everything in perspective. Allow stressful days to encourage creativity, increased effort, and ultimately a greater emotional connection as you overcome them.

What have you found to be the most helpful stress-busters in your marriage? Tell us in the comments!