Sometimes couples are living in the middle of a marriage crisis, and one spouse doesn’t even know it’s happening.
“My spouse just left and I had no idea she/he was so unhappy,” the caller says. “What do I do now?”
The answer is simple, but not necessarily easy. Get help and make changes. Because just limping along and doing the same things the same way will not yield different results. That’s true in life and it’s certainly true in marriage.
Here are five warning signs that a marriage may be on the brink of full blown crisis. Couples experiencing one or more of these issues may want to consider getting help before the problems get worse.
1. Lack of physical intimacy.
Sex is an important part of a healthy marriage. Unless there is a medical reason for abstinence, a few months of no sex should be like a blinking indicator light in your car. Something is wrong and needs attention. If there is a loss of desire for sex, one or both spouses may need a thorough physical and talk with their doctor about possible causes. If there are no obvious physical concerns, a behavioral health specialist may help couples understand what’s behind the disconnect. It’s worth it to figure out how mutual respect and care for one another in this area can maximize enjoyment of the oneness and passion God intended for marriage.
2. Loss of emotional intimacy.
Regular conversation fosters connection and emotional intimacy in marriage. That includes talking about everyday thoughts and observations, as well as hope and dreams for the future. So when a couple no longer talks about anything other than who picks up the kids from soccer or who runs by the store after work for groceries, something needs to change. If at all possible, couples should spend time in conversation each day. Many experts recommend at least 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted talk time. So you may need to start by talking about… why you are not talking. Then schedule significant blocks of time to continue this important dialogue. Many counselors recommend something like a marriage intensive weekend to jump-start reconnection.
3. Children always come first.
Children are a gift from God. They are a legacy, and a source of inspiration, pride, and great joy. Kids are also a lot of hard work. But if couples spend all their energy meeting the needs of children, their marriage will eventually suffer. And a relationship can’t run on fumes forever. Every family situation is different, but couples have to find ways to care for each other as well as their children. In fact, studies show that children feel most secure when they know their parents love each other. So couple time away from kids is a win-win, because it’s good for the marriage, and ultimately good for the kids, too.
4. No shared friends or interests.
Husbands and wives don’t have to spend all their time together and may enjoy very different hobbies. Most healthy relationships have a balance of time spent together and time spent alone or with other friends. But if time outside of work and family obligations is increasingly spent away from one another, something may be amiss. It’s often subtle, but growing in different directions can lead to growing apart. So some couples wake up after 25 years of marriage and feel they no longer really know each another. This is why it’s important to cultivate shared interests. And spend time catching each other up about things you do independently.
5. Unhealthy communication habits.
Communication is essential to a healthy marriage. But when every conversation turns into an argument, an unhealthy cycle develops. If one or both spouses use words as weapons and show disrespect or even contempt for one another, communication can negatively impact both individuals and the marriage relationship. Tragically, this can have lasting consequences. Animosity may escalate. Or couples may pull back and begin to withdraw from one another. Either way, communication needs a major overhaul. Couples with a marriage in crisis because of unhealthy communication often need outside help to develop new skills. Couples can also learn how to repair damage done from years of unhealthy communication habits.
A New Beginning is a is a three-day workshop led by a professional counselor. This workshop, or “marriage intensive” has an extraordinary success rate. More than 75% of couples who participate stay married and report finding happiness and satisfaction in their marriage relationship. Sometimes called the Save My Marriage workshop, this powerful, interactive weekend helps couples identify underlying issues creating dysfunction in their marriage and get the tools needed to make lasting changes. A New Beginning is available both in-person and online.