What is a marriage crisis?

September 10, 2018

‘Marriage Crisis’ is a term that often gets thrown around. It can convey many different things depending on the perspective of whomever it is you ask. I want to spend the next few weeks here at The Marriage Place focused on exploring the idea of a ‘marriage crisis’ and more importantly, identifying some coping strategies you can employ to address them in your own marriage.

But first, let’s define it.  For me, a Marriage Crisis is anything that makes the relationship feel like it is in danger.  Sometimes both parties are aware the relationship is in danger; but oftentimes, only one of you is aware until devastation hits. As a marriage counselor, I have seen a crisis come in many different forms ranging from ‘My feelings went away. I’m not in love anymore.’ to ‘My husband was just thrown into jail because I found out he is a pedophile.’  You name it, I’ve probably heard or seen it before. Though a crisis can take on many forms and extremes, I find they all typically fit into 1 of 3 categories.

Category 1: The Bomb Crisis

A “Bomb Crisis” happens when you find out something so devastating your world and reality immediately feel distorted. You may wonder ‘Do I even know this person?’ or ‘Has my marriage been a lie up to this point?’ These moments are sudden and unexpected and seem to come out of nowhere. Some examples of a Bomb Crisis are discovering your husband is a sex addict and got another woman pregnant. Or, you find out your wife has been cheating on you for years right under your nose. It could also be finding out your husband or wife prefers the same sex. Of the 3 categories, the Bomb Crisis is usually the most catastrophic because the shock waves hit seemingly without warning.

Category 2: The Tornado Crisis

Think of a tornado for a moment. They typically start off as storms, don’t they? Storms are commonplace. We’ve all experienced them many times and most never amount to anything more than some light rain, thunder, and maybe a few fallen tree branches. But all storms are not created equal. Some can very quickly develop into a potentially devastating tornado, turning everything on its head. When you hear a tornado siren, you take cover and wait it out, hoping you escape it’s path or, even better, that the potential tornado falls apart before ever touching down.

In similar fashion, a “Tornado Crisis” happens when you see warning signs there might be trouble in paradise but you aren’t sure if they will amount to anything. You feel the distance building in your relationship but aren’t able to put your finger on the root cause so you keep moving forward, hoping nothing hits you. But sometimes, something does hit you.  A “Tornado Crisis” may look like a spouse coming home from work one day and admitting I love you but I am not in love with you.” Even though you knew something wasn’t quite right in the relationship, you still are knocked off your feet the moment devastation hits. It’s like going from light rain to an F5 tornado in the blink of an eye.

Category 3: The Quiet Crisis

There is another kind of crisis that is much more subtle. The “Quiet Crisis” is what I personally experienced and overcame in my marriage. No one in a Quiet Crisis did anything drastic or morally wrong, but your marriage is still in trouble. This is the kind of crisis that creeps in slowly over time and under the radar, to the point where you wake up one day and realize you don’t love your spouse anymore.You like your spouse and think they are a good person and perhaps a great parent, but you are completely out of love with them. No warm fuzzies. No nothing. Your romantic feelings and emotions have left the marriage. You wonder how you ever ended up in this place and you have no clue what to do with it.

If you have been through a marriage crisis or are currently experiencing one, I’m betting you can identify with one of the scenarios I outlined above. My goal in writing this series is to offer you practical tools on how to overcome and survive your marriage crisis. I want to give you hope that restoration, although it will require a lot of work, is possible. Regardless of which crisis category your marriage resembles, the most important piece of advice I can give you is to not overreact. I know – it’s an easy thing to say and an incredibly difficult thing to do. Not overreacting is challenging, but it’s also a critical piece to managing the crisis. It will do something very important for you. It will buy you time – time to figure out what to do next and slow down you or your spouse from making any drastic decisions.

I look forward to exploring specific strategies for each type of crisis in the weeks to come. In the meantime, if you and your marriage need customized support now to navigate your current crisis, we can help you.

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