As a kid, I (Dennis) loved birthday parties. The cake. The candy. The sugar high. The presents. The games—like Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

And then there were the balloons—in every shape and color. The balloons were a blast. We’d sit on them. Hammer each other with them. My friends and I would even rub them against our hair to create static electricity and then stick them to the walls.

Balloons were great fun. Still are.

These days, of course, you can buy those fancy foil helium-filled balloons from just about any grocery store. Have you ever watched them fill up those babies? If the worker puts too much air pressure into a balloon, it bursts every time. Balloons are a thing of beauty … as long as you maintain the right amount of pressure.

In the same way, marriage is a beautiful gift from God. But the pressure principle at work with balloons also applies to marriage. All of us experience some level of pressure. That’s life. That’s normal. That’s expected. The key is to make sure you and I are not so over inflating our calendars, finances, and commitments that we find ourselves at the breaking point.

Make no mistake. Pressure in your marriage, unless courageously addressed, always leads to problems—and perhaps to tragedy.

Take Charles, for instance. A thirty-year-old husband and father described what happened when the pressure exceeded his capacity: “One day I just hit a brick wall, Dennis. I turned my back on everyone and everything I held dear. I felt overwhelmed by life, the demands of my job, family, and finances. Instead of turning to God, I totally freaked out.”

He described an affair he had with a coworker—while his wife was home nursing their twelve-week-old daughter and caring for their three-year-old son. If only Charles and his wife had taken the time to identify the level of pressure building in their marriage. I’m convinced that—had they known how close to the edge they were—they could have taken steps to release some of that destructive pressure.

How about you? Is your marriage, like a balloon, sailing along on a gentle breeze? Or is it about to burst?

Let’s find out.

Test your pressure

Place a checkmark in front of the answer in each section that best describes your family life on average. Keep in mind no family is perfect. No home is the ideal place to live. No marriage is perfect—as Barbara and I can attest.

Even so, if you are going to get a snapshot of how you and your mate are doing—and how pressure might be endangering your marriage—honest answers will help you identify the problems.


It might be interesting for you and your spouse to take the pressure test separately—and then compare notes. Why? Remember the letter from Charles? While I want to ask, “What kind of man would turn his back on his young wife and infant daughter?” apparently he didn’t see the warning signs that he was about to explode.

Neither did his wife.

Both failed to measure and manage the pressure that had been building in their marriage for several years and reached the point of no return. Tragically, two innocent children will face a lifetime of brokenness because their parents failed to control the pressure.

That’s why, like checking the tire pressure on your car, assessing the stress in your lives and marriage by taking this pressure test together is so important.

Adapted from Pressure Proof Your Marriage © 2003 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission. Excerpt may not be reproduced without prior written consent.