Marriage is a beautiful experience, providing a source of love, support, and companionship. Just like any relationship, marriages are not stress-free and take effort and attention. This is especially true for military couples, who experience a different set of stressors, such as deployments, moves across the country or overseas, and transition to civilian life. But that effort is worth it. A loving and resilient marriage is a source of personal happiness and joy. With that in mind, one of HOPE’s social workers, Ariel Mulzoff, compiled a list of tips to help you and your spouse work towards a more resilient marriage:
- Move together. There is a growing body of evidence pointing to the bottom line – couples that sweat together, stay together. Being active as a team has been shown to increase a couple’s happiness with their relationship and increase their emotional bond. You’ll also have a built-in accountability partner to keep you motivated. Virginia National Guard officer, Lindsey Preddy, and her husband, PJ, PA National Guard officer, and former US Army 101st Airborne infantry officer, set a goal to run a marathon together. In November 2018, they accomplished that goal by running the TCS New York City Marathon as members of Team Hope For The Warriors. You can read more of their story here. If you and your partner are looking for a way to get moving together, stay tuned for more information on our annual Memorial Day 30×30 Virtual Wellness Challenge coming up in May!
- Be still. Just as important (if not more so) as moving is, finding stillness throughout your day is valuable. Having a daily relaxation practice, whether it is a simple breathing technique, a mindful meditation practice or something more structured like a guided meditation allows our bodies to rest and reset in our relaxation response. The relaxation response is a physiological and psychological reset. When our stress response kicks us into high gear, our relaxation response pumps the breaks. The problem is, in our modern productivity-focused world, we rarely have the time to experience it. As a couple, learn to support your partner in finding time to reset throughout the day. If you’re looking for a good place to start, these mindfulness tips will help you increase your presence.
- Practice gratitude. Having an attitude of gratitude has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including improved physical and psychological health, enhanced ability to empathize with others, reduced aggression, improved self-esteem, and much more. We all have so much to be grateful for, but sometimes the stresses of our lives can make us forget that. Try implementing a daily gratitude practice, such as writing down what you’re grateful for or going around the dinner table and saying one thing you were grateful for today.
- Laugh together. Laughter really is one of the best medicines. Laughter has been shown to have both short and long-term positive effects on your health. Make it a point to laugh with your spouse often and find joy in everyday activities. Bonus points if you are laughing at inside jokes only the two of you share.
- Sleep together! Getting quality sleep is more important than we realize. Even just one night of poor sleep can undermine our ability to make healthy decisions. Make it a priority to practice good sleep hygiene as a couple. Decisions to stop the use of electronic devices an hour before bed, to create a nightly sleep routine, or to avoid working in the bedroom can have a dramatic impact on your sleep.
- Set goals together. By setting goals together or even simply making sure your own individual goals do not conflict, you and your partner can focus your energy in a single direction. As you work toward your goals, you can keep each other accountable and provide encouragement to help you each succeed.
- Know the warning signs of your spouse’s stress response. Not only is it important to understand your own unique response to stress, but also to know your partner’s. What are those warning signs you start to see when he or she is stressing out? Are they physical signs such as clenching their jaw or balling their fists? Are they behavioral, such as getting short or snippy or compulsive list-making? Whatever they are, paying attention and simply being aware can make you more sensitive to their needs, and a better support system.
Taking the time to increase your presence in your relationship and to enjoy the little things together can make all the difference in creating a stronger and more resilient marriage.
Your marriage will not be defined by the size of your struggles, but by the size of your commitment to overcome those struggles together. – Dave Willis