Every marriage faces times under pressure. Sometimes you overschedule your time or money, and the pressure builds. Sometimes an unexpected illness or accident threatens your well-laid plans. Sometimes your attempts at a project result in only frustration, or a misunderstanding creates hard feelings. Sometimes outside “stuff” comes against you that threatens your sense of normalcy.
Whatever the source, how you act when under pressure says a lot about your level of maturity and the strength of your relationship. When the heat gets turned up you find out what you’re really made of.
Al and I faced a big pressure-cooker day recently. As things calmed down we reflected together on what to do when tough stuff happens. I think you’ll find our combined suggestions here helpful for when your own marriage gets put under pressure. (This works when both husband and wife are people of good will, and care about their marriage.)
- Own your own stuff. Don’t blame the other person for your distress. If you’re scared, or anxious, or frustrated, or exhausted, own it. The other person didn’t – and can’t – make you feel any certain way. You always have a choice in how you respond.
- Give yourself, and your spouse, some time. Your brain does not work best under extreme pressure, whether it’s external or “simply” emotional. A short time (few hours, perhaps) will likely make everything look different. Don’t press yourself or your spouse for major decisions when you feel under pressure.
- Don’t do something you will later regret. Bite your tongue if you need to. If your spouse feels under pressure, don’t force them to talk immediately either. Words can have lasting consequences. Don’t add to your stress by saying something hurtful. Always be kind. Period.
- Remind each other of your commitment. Even if the cause of the pressure isn’t quickly resolved, verbalize your commitment to your spouse, and to your marriage. Choose to stay connected even if it feels prickly. An “I love you” along with a hug and a kiss can go a long way.
- Remember the big picture. As miserable as you are right now, it’s probably temporary. Are you going about the job God gave you to do to the best of your ability? Are you and your spouse committed to each other? Sometimes that’s all you can hold on to. But it can be enough.
Al and I did not have a fight. We know we’re on the same side, facing the same challenges together. And we know God’s on our side as well. So there’s no need to fight each other: we can address the problems from the same perspective. We know we have each other’s back.
Perhaps number 5 above is the most important. I think the two rules of remaining sane in life apply here, for the most part:
- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Everything is small stuff.
In the light of your whole life, your whole marriage, and certainly eternity, most of it really is small stuff. Keep things in perspective. And tomorrow will be another day.
Your Turn: How do you react when your marriage is put under pressure? Can you look back at anything you learned in such a situation? Leave a comment below.
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