Surviving a bomb crisis in your relationship
September 17, 2018
Last week I started this Marriage Crisis series by unpacking 3 different categories I use to describe the various types of crises we find in marriages. If you missed that post, you can catch up here.
Every week we see clients in The Marriage Place office who are dealing with a crisis in their relationship. They come looking for tools they can use to survive the crisis. They also come looking for hope. My goal with this blog series is to provide all of you with some helpful coping strategies – and in turn some hope – so that you, too, can overcome your own marriage crisis
I thought I’d start this week by covering the most explosive crisis – a “Bomb Crisis”
A “Bomb Crisis” happens when you find something about your spouse or relationship so devastating your world immediately feels distorted. When I think of a Bomb Crisis, I think of things like affairs, sex addictions, drug addiction, pedophilia, embezzlement, or secret gambling debt. This is not a complete list but I think you get the point. All of these can come out of nowhere and immediately shake your relationship to its core. When a Bomb Crisis hits, many times spouses finds themselves questioning the true identity of the person they’ve been sleeping next to every night.
So what do you do if a Bomb Crisis hits your relationship?
- Do not overreact and do not make any big decisions. This first thing you should do will likely go against everything you want to do in the moment. But trust me, it’s a crucial first step. Rash decisions are often decisions you will regret. A Bomb Crisis creates an aftershock and you will need time for the numbness and shock to wear off before you can make big decisions with a clear mind. Hold off on big decisions until you find your “equilibrium” again.
- Next, get yourself safe. “Safe” can mean a variety of things depending on the nature of your Bomb Crisis. Financially it could mean cutting off credit cards or freezing bank accounts. For some, it could be physically moving out of your home or changing the locks to keep your spouse out of your house. If there has been sexual infidelity, no more sex! Do not ever assume they used protection even if they swear they did. Take yourself immediately to get tested for an STD and halt all intercourse until you have the results. I can’t tell you how many sad stories I’ve heard of spouses who find out they contracted an STD from an unfaithful partner who at least initially swore they used protection.
- Find a circle of support. Your natural tendency may be to clam up and share with no one, out of embarrassment for yourself or your spouse. Or, to share with everyone who will listen, out of anger and spite. Neither of these is going to help you. You need a small, secure circle of support during this time. If a secure support system were to have a job description it would simply read: Tight and Trustworthy. Only confide in people who are safe, have you and your relationship’s best interests at heart, and will keep the vault shut. The bigger the shock value, the juicer the gossip, and the last thing you need right now is to fall victim to the latest rumor mill. Your support group also needs to be made up of people who won’t encourage you to do something rash, won’t judge you or hurt you. later. Also be very cautious of including your family. You may be able work through the crisis and heal your marriage, but it’s likely your family will have a much tougher time moving past it. I’ve seen this exact situation play out many times and the awkward family gatherings thereafter just put more strain on your already vulnerable relationship.
- Get help. This might mean finding an attorney you trust, an accountant or financial advisor to guide you, or a therapist. The top priority in finding these folks is to make sure they have your best interest at heart! You have no idea how many therapists out there will encourage divorce in the midst of a Bomb Crisis and tell you to use this time to go “find yourself.” This type of advice is for a different blog post altogether (and a hot spot for me) but whatever you do, make sure you are with someone who values marriage the same way that you do.
- Resist the urge to minimize, deny, or justify. Did you know there are some spouses who suspect their spouse is having an affair, but don’t actually want to know about it? This might be hard for some, but you need to be willing to see what needs to be seen and not make excuses for your spouse. Pulling the junk into the light is better for everyone in the long run, no matter the outcome.
Though this is not a comprehensive list of everything you need to do when a Bomb Crisis hits your relationship, it should provide you with the critical first steps necessary to survive the initial explosion. For more customized support, I hope you’ll contact us.
I’ll be back next week to talk through a “Tornado Crisis”
You may also like:
Can you laugh at yourself? I mean really laugh at yourself when you make a mistake or do or say something silly? What about when your spouse or friends tease you in a good-natured way? Are you able to laugh then?
When it comes to marriage, free speech is essential. You should be able to be honest with your spouse, to express your opinions without constantly filtering them. That freedom allows us to really connect with one another. It’s part of the trust that we need to feel safe and secure in our relationships.
Most of us are spending more time than ever with our kids and spouses and tensions are rising. As therapists and coaches, we are seeing your struggles. We are also dealing with the same stressors in our own homes. The people we live with are getting on our nerves and we don’t always handle it the way we should. Many of us are apologizing almost daily for the things we’ve said or the ways in which we’ve said them.