Change one’s reaction to stress: Stress either begins or ends up in the relationship (Part 3)

In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. Stressors being external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction can be handled in 2 basic ways:
1) Eliminate the stressor or
2) Change one’s reaction to stress.

When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

Top 5 Stressors for Couples
Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete the Customised Version, the top 5 stressors for each relationship stage are listed below. Overall, married couples report higher stress levels than dating or engaged couples.

  • Dating Couples: Your job, Feeling emotionally upset, Inadequate income, Your partner, Too much to do around the home
  • Engaged Couples: Your job, Financial concerns, Cost of wedding, Lack of exercise, Lack of sleep
  • Married Couples: Your spouse, Your job, Feeling emotionally upset, Inadequate income, Too much to do around the home

Married Couples and Stress
Note the item rated as the number one stressor by married couples is Your spouse. This was the number one stressor cited by both the men and the women.

Married couples who take PREPARE/ENRICH are often being seen in a counseling situation. It is not uncommon for individuals experiencing relational conflict to believe their problems would be solved if their partner would only change. Not only do they believe this, they often express it. Experienced counselors are used to the finger pointing which often accompanies the initial sessions of marital therapy. Unfortunately, one partner cannot change the other and this approach leaves individuals totally disempowered in the relationship. In fact, the more one individual focuses on the other person’s behavior, the more resentment, anger, and resistance they typically receive in return.

It is much more productive to help these couples work on things that are in their control including the way the speak to one another, the way the resolve conflict, the way each individual chooses to react to their daily stressors and interactions with their spouse.

Wedding Stressors and Engaged Couples
Ten of the 25 checklist items for engaged couples are specifically associated with wedding planning and target the stressors couples typically face as they plan their “big day”. Engaged couples are typically embroiled in the countless details of planning their wedding service and reception. They are also faced with the pressures of a very high price tag.

In many ways, planning a wedding provides the first big set of decisions a couple will make together and tests their ability to function as a team. From finances to family, and communication to conflict, the wedding preparations trigger many of the issues a couple will face throughout their married life providing a symbolic practice field for their relationship. In looking at the initial data, the Cost of the wedding is the number 3 overall stressor for engaged couples. Two other items from the wedding items also made the top 10; Decisions about wedding details was number 7, and Feeling overwhelmed by wedding details was number 10 out of the 25 stressors reported by engaged couples.

Skilled PREPARE/ENRICH facilitators often leverage a couple’s wedding stressors and issues to provide them with relevant feedback and education. Rather than asking the couple to imagine how finances will be handled in their future marriage, they engage the couple in a discussion of how they are making financial decisions right now as they plan their wedding, reception, and honeymoon.

At PREPARE/ENRICH Australia, we are committed to providing quality resources for marriage preparation and relationship enrichment. Any questions, please contact us:

Strengthening Relationships Since 1979.

Contact Details:
PO Box 448
Sutherland, NSW 1499
ABN: 65 162 790 687
P: (02) 9520 4049



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