Warning Signs That a Marriage is in Crisis

Warning signs crisis - Dollar Photo Storm ComingHow 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.

Warning Signs:

  • 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).

In Addition:

  • 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…

(Proverbs 16:20-21)

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.

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Filed under: Save My Marriage

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161 responses to “Warning Signs That a Marriage is in Crisis

  1. I’ve tried to go to Life Skills for 5 years and lately he blows up now and then and complains that I cant do nothing right. I pray; I have mental a condition and I don’t even know how say things. I make mistakes; I cry at Life Skills a lot. I am waiting for the time the Lord takes me and hugs me and says “everything is okay; you are safe.” I don’t know, we hardly talk.

  2. I have learned the hard way! My wife told me she loved me but wasn’t in love with me anymore. She was also online talking to other men. She lost a lot of money in a romance scam. I in turn went to church hand prayed to God to take away the pain of her actions. Eventually I got tired of her staying with so called friends in Arizona and not coming home so I filed for divorce and sold our home.

    I also ran off to see another woman that eventually fell apart. Looking back her actions were horrible but my reactions were just as bad. Now that the dust has cleared I realize we have both become the losers of all of this – Lost beautiful home; lost marriage and splitting up of our dogs, who incidentally had a hard time with this. So anyone here going through a hard time in their marriage I implore you try real hard to work it out! The alternative is pain and loneliness.

    1. Don, thanks for being willing to be so transparent and for what you shared. It’s one thing to issue a “warning” to people, but it’s an entirely different thing when it comes from the “voice of personal experience.” It took a lot of guts to share this story. I just hope there will be many who read it and heed your warning. I also pray that God will redeem and restore what the “locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25) and destroyed in your life. Blessings!

    2. I know my part in the destruction of my husband and my marriage (sex was used as a weapon). Disconnection led to his affair. What does one do when he cannot give up his affair partner and refuses to acknowledge that it was/is also physical? In the past, she has left scratches on his buttocks. As of recently, she tore holes in his underwear. Not being able to reach him emotionally is also lonely. Do you have any suggestions?

    3. And yet the Lord makes an allowance in his word that when your spouse commits adultery you are free to leave…this is because the marriage covenant has been dishonored. I’m not sure it is any easier to stay!

  3. My husband and I moved to the west coast 14 months ago. All of our friends and family are on the east coast. We moved here for his job; 5 months later I was employed there too. He started flirting excessively with a married coworker in May. I confronted him many times how disrespectful his actions were to me. Her husband moved out mid July and my husband informed me on Aug 1st that after 34 years married he did not love me, had no feelings at all. In fact, he told me to get a boyfriend, he did not care! Sadly, he is now living with her. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, and I am all alone. I thought this was one of those patches that we have been through before. Honestly, I cannot even believe this my life now.

  4. I felt the growing ‘disconnect’ in our marriage for many years, and inward panic started to grow in me. After fervent prayer to reveal what was wrong in our marriage, God finally revealed, in September of 2016, that my pastor-husband was into pornography. Prior to that, he was heavily into computer gaming, stealing most of his days from being a diligent pastor.

    I know now that my husband swallowed the lie from Satan that the ministry that God called him to was not fulfilling enough, but winning at fantasy games was much more rewarding and affirming. I found out, after last September, that this was not the first time my husband had done porn. Several times before our marriage, and about 10 years into our marriage, he was doing this, too. No wonder he never really had a lot of interest in sex with me…there was no way, from the very start, that I would ever satisfy him. I had no clue…I thought it was my fault. It took him nearly a year to FINALLY seek counseling, and that was after a person recommended this at a crisis marriage retreat we attended in July. I had pleaded with him for 10 months, to seek Christian counseling, but he was not listening to me.

    Now, because of counseling, he justifies his porn actions because he was ‘belittled’ as a teen because of his acne issues. Somehow, being ‘belittled’ has given him a ‘reason for seeking comfort and affirmation in doing porn’. He says that ‘now, this is making sense to him.’ The longer this ‘counseling’ goes on, the more I doubt that this will be of help with my husband. Justifying sin is always easier to do, than facing it, seeing it as God sees it, confessing and forsaking it, as God wants us to do. Where are the godly counselors that will call out sin, as sin, regardless of what this does to someone’s ego! Where are the godly counselors encouraging complete repentance and a totally broken spirit before the Lord, and encouraging yielding to God as LORD of every area in your life?

    Yes, we’ve all been ‘damaged’ sometime in our lives, but that is NO excuse for us to sin. We are on an equal plane before God…given the choice to do right or wrong…given the same precautions to take against sin…we are without excuse. I realize that ego is ‘everything’ to my husband, but right now, his ‘ego’ is destroying him. Christ calls us to die to self, and glory in Him! My husband tells me that he is sorry, but he has not even come close to acknowledging how he has severely damaged me emotionally. He is doing nothing to ‘heal’ the relationship at this time.

    I honestly don’t think he even sees what this has done to himself, us, or his relationship with God. He keeps saying that I should trust him, yet I hardly know him anymore. He’s thrown away any and all human security, trust, and love in my life, and wonders why I can’t just ‘leave this alone’. To be honest, I don’t think I will ever trust him, or any other human again, until he totally surrenders everything he is to God. The only one I will ever trust completely, will be God. I know that God commands me to love my husband, but to be honest, the only way I can love him is through the strength of Christ, because in myself, it’s hard to ‘feel any romantic love’ for him right now. I’m at the point where I can’t even watch a Hallmark movie about love, or hear a love song on the radio, without wanting to scream…’It’s not true…human love is so fake…don’t do it…it will always fail you!’

    He says that he’s not doing porn anymore, and acts like our marriage is fine, since he’s not doing this. He has lied to me so much this year, and in the past, that I don’t know what to believe anymore. I even wonder if he is saved, because it seems that he more easily resists God, and yields easier to sin. He’s not doing much outwardly, to resist sin or self-gratification. He often states that the precautions the book of Proverbs tells us to take to guard against sin, are ‘really not necessary.’ My understanding of Proverbs is that one who does not take every known precaution not to sin is a man ‘without sense.’ He also says that Proverbs ‘doesn’t make sense to him, and is a book of disjointed sayings.’ I see Proverbs as amazing and so practical for my life.

    Anything I say, or any caution that I desire for him to take with his internet and TV usage, he resists, and resents the ‘limits’ I feel (and many other Christian men who write on this subject) he should be taking to protect himself from porn. He is not seeking books, written by godly men, who have been down this road and found victory, to help him with this battle. Anything he has read on this, I have searched out for him. I have stopped doing that now. If he is going to return to God, he will need to do this on his own. I obviously have no sway over him at all now. Somehow, he will need to ‘muster up the gumption’ to humble himself, resist the Devil, and be restored with God. I now feel that I can’t say anything to him, as this only seems to increase his resistance towards God.

    I don’t understand, if he is in the greatest spiritual battle of his life, why he is not doing ALL he can to stand, like the soldier in Ephesians 6. The longer this goes on, the more I wonder about his salvation, why he continues to stay in the ministry, and the future of our marriage. I am clinging to God as hard as I can cling…and am so thankful for God’s promises that He won’t let go of me. I am in constant prayer for my husband. I may be worthless in my husband’s eyes, but I am precious and cherished in God’s eyes. God will never lie to me, or break His promise to me. There is always hope in God. I am left with so many questions, because my husband keeps me at an emotional distance, still. If God is working in his life, he is not telling me about it.

    I read the article above, and our marriage, and ministry, is just 1 step away from being over, and it breaks my heart. I know that the distance that we have in our relationship is setting up my husband perfectly to take this a step further and have an affair. I pray daily that God will bring whatever is necessary, into my husband’s life, to bring him to the point of total brokenness and surrender to God. I would give my own life to see my husband totally surrendered to God. Once that happens, then our 34 year old marriage can heal. Until that point, I’m having a hard time investing my very broken heart and soul, into a what appears to be sinking ship.

    I also pray, that if my husband is never going to really surrender to God, and if God sees, in his future, that he will yield once again to this sin, that God will take his life now, before God’s name is dragged through the mud, and before our precious church folk are devastated by the actions of their pastor of 32 years. I just request your prayers for my husband.

    1. RB, I read your post 2 days ago and you and your husband and your marriage have been in my thoughts and prayers since then. I will keep praying for you. Your husband is being hunted down by the evil one, and is in a dreadfully dangerous situation. His only hope for protection is turning fully towards our all-powerful and loving Lord and Savior Jesus. But satan is the great deceiver, and has deceived your husband in many ways.

      It is extremely sad that men in ministry can so easily become isolated from those who could and should be providing support and encouragement and accountability and a covering of prayer in their lives. But that is exactly what satan desires… that we become isolated from other believers so that he can stalk us and cause us to eventually fall morally.

      The challenge for you is this… and it is an enormous challenge, RB, I know… as a wife, you have been joined together as one with your husband. So, if your husbands falls, he drags you down also. And, in the process, he will likely do a lot of damage to other believers around him. Your challenge is: What do you do to intervene? How can you reach him with God’s truth in a way that touches his heart and causes him to repent and return back to the way that he should be living?

      Based upon my experience, I would suggest that you speak to one of the most calm, respected, trustworthy, God-following men at your church, in confidence, and share that satan is actively hunting down your husband with many overwhelming temptations and you need someone to come alongside of him, speaking truth into his life and guiding him back onto the narrow path of God that he should be following. Tell him that you are exceedingly concerned that your husband is going to fall, in a big way, and you are desperate to avoid that happening. If this first man, together with 1 or 2 other calm, respected, trustworthy, God-following men of his choosing, were to invite your husband to lunch and share with your husband exactly what you shared with the first man, I think that there is a very high probability that your husband will begin to talk and share his heart with them and reach out for some help. If the other men share a bit of their own stories and make the situation safe for your husband, he will share his struggles with them. I will be praying for you, RB. If you read my post here, please reply.

      Oh Father, bring Your peace into the life of RB in an overwhelming way, letting her know that You can fully heal and restore any situation, no matter how desperate it might seem to us. Be upon her husband in a powerful way, causing him to fall to his knees before You and repent of his behavior. Lead RB to the perfect man at her church who You desire to use to intervene in this situation. Give him perfect discernment and fill him with Your perfect wisdom and love. Be upon this whole situation miraculously and bring RB’s husband back onto Your narrow path in his life. I bring these requests to You in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus, Amen!!!

      1. I can’t begin to thank you enough for your prayers…joining with my prayers on this. I will pray about who I should talk with as well. know God is a God of miracles, and He is able… I just don’t know if my husband is willing. I pray that God will quickly intervene to humble and break my husband’s heart before my husband breaks the hearts of so many others.

        1. RB, I will continue to lift up you and your husband in prayer. And I will be praying that the Spirit leads you to the right man in your church to share this with. Try not to be concerned about whether your husband is willing to deal with the issues, or not. Leave that to God to work on his willingness. Our God is an all-powerful God of miraculous healing and restoration, and He is also God who does not like to have His Holy Name defiled by our disobedient behavior. May you find peace and rest in His Presence, knowing that He is in-control.

  5. I have never commented on a website like this before, but here goes. I have been married for 50 years this past July. My husband had been a very good provider and family man. Loving towards me, very passionate. He retired 4 years ago and I was so excited to spend time together.

    My dream retirement has not been a reality. He started becoming distant, no real affection, just light kisses, quick hugs. We are in good shape physically and young for our age. He developed ED. No sex for 3 years. Had checkups, visited urologist, took various ED meds, nothing worked. He started staring at other women everywhere we would go. Not just noticing them but really staring. And being flirtatious. I overlooked it for a while but finally confronted him. He made light of it and said I love you and I’m still here.

    But eventually admiting he was looking around. I am devastated. He has no desire for a physical relationship with me and I am feeling so neglected. I tried sexy nightgowns and he acted like he never even noticed me. My self esteem is in the toilet. He always makes the excuse that he’s too tired. I am feeling so much resentment and am not ready for a marriage without intimacy. I love my husband and have never wanted anyone else.

    He said he wanted to renew our vows and I had a hard time agreeing under the circumstances but did it anyway hoping it would change things. He says he loves me but he makes me feel like I can do no right. He even said, when was the last time you did anything to make me happy. I was in complete shock. I have devoted our whole marriage to being a good, loving wife. Raised 3 awesome kids. Have a beautiful home which I keep clean, cook meals, cut the grass. I am so confused and miserable. He has dealt with depression from an abusive childhood, and I have tried and tried to be supportive. I am at the end of knowing what to do. Thanks for listening. Need prayers.

    1. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this GM. This has got to be so confusing and horribly unsettling! My heart goes out to you.

      You definitely have our prayers. You may even want to post a synopsis of what you wrote on the Marriage Missions Prayer Wall, which you’ll find on the Home page of this web site. We have additional people praying for those that post their marriage requests there. But besides praying for you and your husband and your marriage, I’m not sure how to direct you. I’m thinking you are dealing with a depressed husband who is not going in a healthy direction. But I’m not sure because I don’t know either of you or many of the specifics that would give more clarification.

      Even if we did, we are not counselors. We’re marriage mentors and educators. We can’t delve into the details that could possibly help you further. However, we often refer people to the ministry of Focus on the Family. They have counselors on staff and also are great at directing spouses to a wide variety of helpful resources and such (they know a lot of them). I looked up their counseling services page to give the link to you so you can see about contacting them. It’s: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/get-help/counseling-services-and-referrals/. You’re under no obligation to do what they would suggest, but it may be good to see what options they give you. What do you have to lose? It’s certainly worth a try.

      I pray it’s a good stepping stone to take you to a better place emotionally, and in your relationship with your husband. Again, I’m so, so sorry that you are having to go through this in your marriage. But hang tight and keep leaning into the Lord for guidance and clarity and help. And as you do:

      “May the Lord direct your heart into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5) I pray the Lord will help you in the ways you need it the most. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ —to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11) “May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:2)