I’ve spent the last few weeks digging into the concept of a “marriage crisis” and outlining 3 different types of crises I see regularly in my practice. Last week I covered a “Bomb Crisis” and gave you some coping strategies to employ should you have one explode in your marriage. If you missed it, you can catch up here. This week I’m focused on a“Tornado Crisis” and what to do if you find your relationship in the eye of the storm.
A “Tornado Crisis” happens when you feel distance building in your relationship but aren’t able to put your finger on the root cause. As a result, you keep moving forward in a “business as usual” fashion, hoping nothing hits you. But sometimes, something does hit you. And when it does, it feels like your world as you know it has been leveled. A “Tornado Crisis” might look like a spouse saying “I love you but I am not in love with you.” Or, your spouse coming home from work one day and telling you they don’t want to be married to you anymore. Just as if a real tornado were to hit your home, preparedness is key. If a tornado crisis strikes your marriage, I want you to be prepared with healthy coping strategies to help you minimize the destruction and avoid causing even more damage to your relationship.
- Try your best to not overreact. If you get angry or defensive, it will likely cause your spouse to shut down and feel unable (or be unwilling) to share his/her feelings with you. Your response is critical and staying calm is of utmost importance. To work through the crisis, you will need your spouse to be willing to communicate, so be measured in your responses and avoid making any rash decisions.
- Don’t BEG them to stay. In your panic, you may be tempted to cry and plead for them to change their mind. You may promise to change everything about yourself they don’t like. These kinds of things are what often comes naturally to us when we feel our relationship is at risk. But trust me, this is not appealing behavior to a spouse second-guessing the relationship, and it will not be effective in your quest to save your relationship. You’ll come across as pathetic and desperate, both of which are anything but sexy to a spouse who may already be leaning out.
- Be willing to be self reflective. You must be willing to look at and understand the role you play in your marriage problems. If your response to reading this is “But what about when he/she does……” put your focus back on saving the marriage and not on who is at fault. Getting angry and blaming your spouse isn’t going to help you. If you want to save your marriage, you better be prepared to focus only on how you contributed to the crisis…for now.
- Ask your spouse if they are willing to go talk to someone about this. This isn’t the time to just sit back hope things will improve on their own. It also isn’t the time to make a bunch of promises you aren’t equipped to keep. If you make a bunch of promises to change but don’t seek out some professional help to make sure those changes stick, you’ll invariably fall back into old patterns and ultimately cause more damage to the relationship. Invest in counseling or coaching to help you put healthy habits in place that will help you keep your relationship healthy and thriving.
Avoiding a Relationship Tornado
While we cannot control mother nature and avoid a real tornado, there are ways to minimize or even avoid the chance of a relationship tornado. In the same way you gather supplies to brace yourself for a storm that might or might not hit your home, you can also make preparations to avoid an F5 hitting your marriage.
The number one thing you can do to protect your relationship from a tornado is to not ignore, deny, minimize or dismiss the subtle clues you see that hint of something being “off” in the relationship. When you recognize something isn’t quite right, dig deeper. Talk about it. Work through it. Get help working through it. But whatever you do, don’t pretend the warning signs aren’t there. Often our natural tendency is to stick our proverbial ‘head in the sand’ and pretend nothing is amiss. But when we let our fear keep us from acknowledging and addressing the issues, it leaves our relationship in the direct path of a twister that keeps gaining more size and speed.
If you are in a relationship where the subtle clues are mounting, I urge you to wake up, pay attention and get prepared. Once a tornado hits, the path of destruction is a much tougher clean-up. Sometimes a spouse has been slowly detaching for so long (all those subtle clues), that by the time the tornado hits, he/she has one or both feet out the door. I find this especially true for women. So don’t wait until the tornado touches down. Be alert for the warning signals so that your relationship never gets to crisis mode. Your marriage is worth protecting.
Now, if a tornado has already hit your marriage or if you are picking up on warning signals that bad weather is approaching, we are here for you to help. Contact us here for more information.