Got Marriage? Finding a Stable Relationship Will Reduce Stress

By Atieno Bird, relationship and life coach and M.A. in Conflict Transformation

Numerous studies have shown that being in a marriage or committed partnership reduces the deleterious effects of stress. On the whole, married people tend to live longer, enjoy a more satisfying sex life, live a healthier lifestyle and have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and depression. Marriage can even cut your chances of developing dementia in half!  Married people who undergo heart surgery are more than three times as likely as single people to survive the next three months. They are also less likely to smoke, drink heavily or use illegal drugs.


If you are already married or in a committed partnership, you know that there’s always room to take it from good to great. (If it’s not good, you may be an exception to the research cited above!) And if you’re single and looking, you may find that seeking a partner can become a primary source of stress!


In my coaching practice, I help all three categories of folks – those looking to create a more satisfying marriage, those deciding what to do with a miserable one, and those feeling stymied or intimidated in their quest to find a mate. Relationship coaching, like all coaching, helps people who have decided they are no longer willing to settle for the status quo in their lives, and have at least a hope, if not yet the confidence, that they can create the lives they truly desire.


Those are three very different places to be, and yet they all point to the same commitment – finding an ideal partnership, either within your current relationship or in a new one. They also share in common a hidden pitfall: Thinking in terms of the other person’s qualities. Whether it’s a litany of complaints from a spouse or a laundry list of must-haves in a single’s online profile, one common way our thinking limits our options is by taking the focus away from the experience we are longing for and toward a focus on someone else’s desirable characteristics.


One of the first exercises I have my clients do is to write a “present tense future journal entry,” in which they imagine what the experience – emotional and sensory – will be in the days they are with their ideal mate. I ask them to focus on the feelings and sensations they will be having on this future day for two reasons. First, what attracts your ideal life to you is to have it alive in your imagination. Many of us think we are already focused on “manifesting our dreams,” but what we are really focused on at the emotional level as we think of our dreams is the lack we feel and the fear that we will never fill it. So we end up with more lack.


The second reason this exercise is so important and foundational to the coaching process is that you don’t have to wait for your dream to come true to start being the person you think you could be if it were true. The benefits can start now. Once you notice that you don’t really want a tall rich man, for example, but ultimately desire a specific experience you think he will bring you (feeling financially and physically secure and worthy, for example) the pressure is off – you can start being that valued and safe individual even before you find him. And typically, paradoxically, this is the only way to find him! This is one reason you often hear people say “It only happens once you give up and aren’t expecting it.”


This exercise also serves as a great basis for writing a compelling online profile, if you are single. I tell my clients to write about the experience of being together in a way that inspires them and fires them up with eagerness for that future time, because it will inspire those reading it as well. By contrast, the laundry list approach might leave them bored, or wondering if they measure up (or worse, what kind of baggage would make a person demand a trait like “someone honest who doesn’t play mind games.”) I tell my single clients, “No one is going to want to line up to sign up for jumping through your hoops!” But potential mates will feel drawn to accept an irresistible invitation to an enjoyable experience of connection. The same is true of mates you are already married to!


There are obviously many specific situations, each totally unique, that clients bring to coaching. Yet I have found over and over that those who can stop and ask themselves what they truly want, and make changes in their own self-limiting beliefs as they reorient to an inspiring new future, are able to end and recover from toxic relationships. They can bring deeper levels of love and enthusiasm to the partnership they have or attract the kind of relationship they dared to dream of. And each of those results means a less stressful, more deeply satisfying life experience.

Atieno Bird is a certified life and relationship coach. To order Atieno’s free guide, Seven Steps to Letting Love Find You, visit the website below or email Atieno at gmail.



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