I once had the opportunity to ask Dr. Michael J. Carmichael, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, to give me an overview of how the heart works. He explained, “The heart is primarily a muscle, which pumps blood through a network of blood vessels called arteries and veins. This flow is responsible for pressure in the vessels known as the blood pressure. If the pressure is too low, then the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients isn’t sufficiently distributed to the organs and, if sustained, the vital organs will fail and the person will die. If the blood pressure is too high, over time, it can cause excessive stress against the arterial walls, which leads to injury, rupture and resultant heart attack or stroke.”
This is an important reason to maintain healthy blood pressure. Not too low, not too high. It happens much the same way in marriage. There are all kinds of pressures that can create marriage trouble, pressures that can compound marital challenges and complicate married life. Sure, all marriages face pressure, and some of that pressure is necessary to sustain a healthy relationship. But if that pressure gets too high, catastrophe can strike. What may set a sick marriage apart from a healthy one is the way couples deal with these 4 pressure point C’s.
1. CalendarRemember, your calendar reflects what’s most important to you.
An overbooked schedule can be the culprit that causes pressure in marriage. Your busy schedule plus your spouse’s busy schedule equals missed opportunities to enjoy life and each other. To release some of that pressure, say “no” to more things outside your home and “yes” to more things inside. Schedule a weekly or biweekly date night with your spouse on your calendar. Remember, your calendar reflects what’s most important to you.
Financial issues are among the most prevalent reasons for marriage trouble. According to a Utah State University study, one of the best indicators of marital discord is what the study termed “financial disagreements.” Couples who “disagree about finances once a week” are over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples who report “disagreeing about finances a few times a month.” People tend to be emotional and reactive rather than strategic when discussing finances. But it’s imperative to have a plan to avoid pressure. Dave Ramsey suggests three initial goals in your plan: establish a $1,000 emergency fund, eliminate debt, and have three to six months of savings set aside so when the pressure starts to get too high, you have an avenue for release.
The way you communicate, or don’t communicate, determines the pressure in your life as a couple. Words are important. Words aren’t neutral. They’re either positive or negative. They either build up or tear down. Words that are negative or tear down easily lead to marriage trouble. So when you speak, use kind, considerate, truthful, and uplifting words. What you say is important, but so is the way you say it. So be aware of your nonverbal communication as well. Are you defensive with your arms crossed? Do you roll your eyes? Do you make exasperated noises? Is the tone of your voice harsh or impatient? Or are you open with your body language? Focused and attentive? Making eye-contact?
Children are a gift from God. But I probably don’t need to tell you that these wonderful gifts can pump pressure into our lives. With the joys of parenting come potential areas of pressure. Dealing with daily issues relating to friends, school, dating, and discipline can be tough. Grieving over rebellion, drug abuse, teen sex, and pregnancy can create unbearable pressure. But the pressures that come from parenting don’t have to be catastrophic if you and your spouse work as a team.
You can’t predict exactly how you will respond in any of these pressure situations, but being able to identify the stress points in your relationship will help you to protect it.
Sound off: How have you and your spouse handled these four areas in your marriage?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are some things you do that may cause difficulty in your relationships?”