When a Quiet Crisis Sneaks into your Marriage
This is the latest post in my Marriage Crisis series. Catch up here.
You feel it. Something is creeping in. You roll over one morning and a thought hits you: I love him but I’m not in love with him/her anymore. Did I marry the wrong person?? Even thinking these thoughts leaves you feeling somewhat confused, worried about the future, and ….. vulnerable. On some level you knew these feelings and fears were building, but you kept stuffing them, hoping they’d eventually subside. Plus, you’ve had some good days mixed in there too. But now you’ve woken up to the realization that something is really missing. The passion and lustful feelings are g-o-n-e and you aren’t sure that what’s left (respect as a co-parent? friendship?) is enough for you. Your spouse is routinely getting on your nerves and you find yourself longing for the thrill of romance. Heck, you may be longing to feel anything warm or positive toward your spouse. You might even be wondering if it’s a new romance you need.
I call this the “Quiet Crisis”. There is no bomb or tornado that blew through your home leaving destruction in its wake. And neither one of you has done anything morally or ethically wrong… at least not yet. Instead, you’ve been dealing with the same mundane issues over and over again and you’ve simply lost the spark that once lit up your relationship. The Quiet Crisis is actually somewhat unique. Unlike a Bomb or Tornado Crisis, the Quiet Crisis is all internal. It’s inside of you. It’s the feelings of restlessness, discontentment, or hopelessness, making you believe that getting out of the marriage would be better for everyone than staying in it would be. You might even justify it by thinking he/she will be better off and happier with someone that can love them in a way that I can’t anymore. You know how I know this? Because that was ME many years ago. And I can tell you first-hand, this internal dialogue couldn’t be further from the truth.
The solution to a Quiet Crisis lies within your marriage, not anywhere else or with anyone else. And, the solution starts with YOU. Can you fall in love with someone else? Sure you can…and temporarily, you will feel better. But statistics on second and third marriages show most will be in the same situation just a few years later. The secret to succeeding in marriage is not really about finding the right person to love. It is about learning to love the person you found. It’s learning how to stay in love when all the bells and whistles go silent. Sounds trite but it’s the honest truth.
Below are some guidelines and coping strategies should you find yourself in a Quiet Crisis:
- Focus on Yourself. This is Rule #1 and it trips most of us up. It’s a whole lot easier to point our finger at our spouse and that’s where most of us go first. Who they aren’t. What they’re lacking. What you aren’t getting out of the relationship. This can come across as very entitled as you start buying into the lie you deserve more and better and that this is not the right marriage for you. That is what I did and what I told myself too – until someone got a hold of me and showed me a mirror. The truth is, even if you married someone else, chances are high this would happen all over again in your new relationship unless you fix yourself first. Disclaimer: If you are in an abusive relationship, this advice is not meant for you. Your goal should be to ensure that you and your children are safe, both physically and emotionally.
- Find someone who can tell you the hard, unfiltered truth. Find the friend or loved one who is willing to hand you the mirror. The one who loves you enough to help you see your own flaws in a way you can receive it. One area I’d suggest you specifically consider is how you react when you are confronted with something your spouse does that you don’t like. There’s a good chance you aren’t responding in a way that is helpful to the situation, to the marriage, or to you. Dr. Pete Pearson describes the most ineffective reactions as the fearsome foursome. These reactions might look like anger, retaliation, withdrawal, pouting or criticism, to name a few.
- Don’t react based on feelings….especially if you have mood swings. Sit with your feelings for awhile and notice how they wax and wane. This could be a few weeks or a few months. Start a “Feelings Journal” to help you notice these trends. Also be sure to take note of what triggers these feelings. It will help you see correlations between triggers and emotions. Remember, feelings come and go. They never stick around forever. They change. They intensify and then wane. Love is so much more than a feeling. In fact, if you restrict your love to just a feeling, I can just about guarantee you’ll fail at marriage.
- See a COUPLES therapist…not an individual therapist. Unfortunately, an individual therapist is oftentimes the fastest way to divorce. Therapy is hard. Counseling can be draining emotionally and it requires a financial commitment. But if you are physically sick, you keep going to different doctors and trying different medicines until you find one that helps. Why wouldn’t you fight as hard to get the most important relationship of your life well? If counseling didn’t work last time, find another counselor – one that understands the dynamics of your relationship and can help you both grow and develop. If you find a couples therapist who says both of you need to come in before you can begin, find a new therapist. A good relationship expert knows if you change yourself, you change the relationship.
It boggles my mind how we think it is perfectly normal to divorce when we don’t feel in love, but we do countless other things whether we feel like it or not.
- How many days do you feel like getting up when the alarm goes off?
- How often do you feel like going to work?
- What if you changed jobs every time you realized you didn’t like going to work?
- How often do you feel like forgiving someone who wronged you, yet you do it anyway because you know it is the healthiest option?
While “falling in love” is passive and spontaneous, sustaining love requires action. It will not ‘just happen’ to you. You have to make it happen. Every single day. It takes time, effort, energy and whole lot of wisdom. Do you have the skills you need to make a marriage work? I ask because I find most of us were never taught those skills or had them modeled for us. The good news is it’s never too late to learn new skills. And in the same way I know that diet and exercise makes you physically healthier, I know there are relationship skills and habits that can make your relationship healthier too.
If you are wondering what has happened to your marriage, don’t wait another minute. Things will not get better unless you change something. We are here to help.