How do you know your marriage is in crisis? That’s a good question! It’s one that you might think you have the answer to, but not necessarily. But there are warning signs when a marriage is in crisis.
We all know that every marriage goes through seasons of busyness, and stress. There can be illnesses/accidents, a child in difficulty or danger, job instability or loss. There also can be housing problems or loss, financial disaster, illness or death of a child or family member, natural disaster, and the list goes on.
During these times, your marriage may seem like it’s under attack. (It very well could be.) But it may be that the attack is subtler in its approach. You may not even realize the imminent danger until it appears to be too late.
So, to help you recognize the warning signs that a marriage is in crisis, whether the attack is evident or subtle, we have put together a list that should not be ignored. It’s meant to be your wake up call to treat the threat with urgency and intentionality if you note that any of these critical points is threatening your marriage. Please be forewarned that this is a time to make some important changes or a catastrophe is a very real possibility.
- When needs are being neglected and you (or your spouse) are running on empty emotionally, be on the alert. Also, when more negatives are seen in the relationship than positives, something needs to change in some way (either in attitude, actions or both) or a marriage crisis will follow.
- When you or your spouse (or both of you) are treating the other with contempt and disrespect, watch out! If this type of behavior is becoming the “norm” in your marriage and it’s as if the other “can’t do anything right” any longer, your marriage is in serious trouble.
Keep in mind: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:27)
- When trust is a continual issue, there is need for alarm. Trust is foundational for the marriage to survive. It CAN be rebuilt again, but it will take effort. Either building trust needs to be in the works so it is on the rise, or your relationship is in danger of completely collapsing.
- When open war is going on in your relationship —either behind closed doors or in public, you are at a critical point in your marriage. Your marriage cannot hold up under continual assault. Sometimes, the best you can do is to make sure you do your part in not contributing to verbal assault.
“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) That does not mean that you cannot “speak the truth in love” to your spouse. But you need to stop your part in insulting and assaulting.
- Where there is abuse of any form, it puts the marriage into crisis. Abuse is a very complicated and critical situation. There is no “one size fits all” advice that can be given (especially considering that this is an international ministry where one’s culture can complicate matters). We refer you to the Abuse in Marriage topic of this web site to find ways to protect yourself, or to find methods to stop being the abusive partner.
- If your children start acting up as stress builds up in your relationship, your marriage is in a critical stage.
“An indicator involves your children. Their behavior can often provide a barometer of what is occurring inside a home. You and your spouse may believe that the current level of interaction and health in your marriage is okay. You may think that’s just the way it will be. But your children may sense that something is wrong and needs to change” (from Focusonthefamily.com article “Indications Your Marriage Needs Help“). Do whatever is necessary to model healthy conflict resolution before your children and bring peace into their and your lives and hearts.
If your relatives/friends start telling you that they notice problems, take note. It’s an important time to get good help. We say “good” help, because often, spouses will look for cheap help, or will keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. That’s insanity! If you can’t build relationship bridges between you and your spouse without obtaining outside help, then don’t delay in seeking “marriage friendly” help. And don’t cheap out on it, if it comes with a price tag attached. A divorce is much more expensive in many ways than wisely working to save a marriage.
- If your spouse says, “I love you but I’m not IN love with you” …OUCH! This is the beginning of an end if your spouse isn’t willing to work again with you to rebuild lost feelings. This is NOT impossible to overcome, but it WILL take recognition, and intentionality on both of your parts to breathe life into your relationship again.
- When you and/or your spouse keeps looking for ways to spend most of your free time away from rather than with each other, serious trouble has invaded your relationship. You can’t control your spouse. Sometimes if you try to crowd him or her into doing that, which is right, it can backfire. But recognize the crisis, and know that you can control the efforts and time you invest in the relationship. Ask God for wisdom. Seek it as a hidden treasure. And then see what God will do in your heart and your marriage as you make Him your Wonderful Counselor.
- When you (or your spouse) is looking elsewhere to have emotional and/or sexual needs met outside the relationship, your marriage is in crisis, for sure. “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned“ (or his marriage)? (Proverbs 6:27). It can be termed as, “being on the prowl,” although few spouses would admit to it. It might be as “innocent” as exploring someone through Facebook, or the Gym or elsewhere to find someone interesting to talk to. But when these types of temptations are fed by opening the door of curiosity, a crisis is either ready to explode.
God’s Word Tells Us:
“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.“ (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)
- When you or your spouse is having an affair, another person is being given the opportunity to divide the love you should have exclusively for each other. A marriage is in emergency mode when betrayal is in the works. Do not allow yourself or your spouse to continue the assault upon what should be an exclusive relationship between a husband and wife. Marriage is designed to be an exclusive covenant relationship between the husband and wife and God.
“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:15-18).
- If the laughter has gone out of your relationship, warning, warning, warning! This might not appear to be as critical as some of the other signs that are listed, but don’t be fooled. If you see this happening, this is the time to infuse laughter back into the relationship again. The couple that doesn’t laugh together has lost a critical healing component to their relationship. The Bible says, “laughter (or a cheerful heart) is good medicine“ (Proverbs 17:22). If you stop laughing together, your marriage can naturally slide into crisis mode.
“Laughter bonds people. Any good friend will tell you that laughter is the shortest distance between two people —especially in marriage.” (Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott)
- When hope that a serious problem can be resolved is waning and thoughts of leaving the marriage are being entertained, your marriage is at a critical point.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life“ (Proverbs 13:12). Look to the Lord to show you where it is healthy to put your hope. And then invest wisely. And don’t use your human timetable when you believe your prayers should be answered. Line your will up with God’s and you will never be without hope.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- When the “divorce” word is being thrown around as a continual threat, it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You must stop doing that, which will drain your marriage of any hope. Instead, invest your energy into looking for solutions rather than inching towards a way of escape.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” [and in this case, it could be death of a marriage] (Proverbs 16:25).
As it concerns the many warnings above, consider:
“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is he who trust in the Lord.
The wise in heart are called discerning…“
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.
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Filed under: Save My Marriage