The heart is an amazing organ. I recently had the opportunity to ask Dr. Michael J. Carmichael, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, to give me an overview of how it 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 you need to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Not too low, not too high.
It happens much the same way in marriage. There are all kinds of pressures that flow through our relationships; 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 becomes too great, 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. Calendar—An overly booked schedule can be 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 bi-weekly date night with your spouse on your calendar. Remember, your calendar reflects what’s most important to you.
2. Checkbook—Financial issues are among the most prevalent reasons for marriage failure. According to a 2009 Utah State University study, one of the best indicators of marital discord is what he terms “financial disagreements.” Couples who “disagree about finances once a week” are over 30 percent more likely to get divorced than couples that report “disagreeing about finances a few times a month.” People tend to be emotional and reactive when discussing finances rather than strategic. 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 3-6 months of savings set aside. so that when the pressure starts to get too high, you have an avenue for release.
3. Communication—The way you communicate, or don’t communicate, is a factor that determines 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. 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 non-verbal communication as well. Are you defensive with your arms crossed? Do you roll your eyes? Do you make exasperating noises? Is the tone of your voice harsh or impatient? Or are you open with your body language? Focused and attentive? Making eye-contact?
4. Children—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, however, come potential areas of pressure. Dealing with daily issues relating to things like 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 would respond in any of these pressure situations, but being able to identify the stress points in your relationship will help you to protect it. How have you and your spouse handled these four areas in your marriage?