A Marriage Expert's Advice to Know When Your Marriage is Heading for Crisis
Posted On August 26, 2022
When you walked down the aisle, you felt hopeful and optimistic. You saw a rosy future stretching before you. Even the things that worried you didn't seem that bad.
The truth about "for better or worse"
Every couple knows they will have good times and hard times. Marriage promises ups and downs. Knowing that the challenge will pass helps you to stay hopeful during hard times. The hard times WILL switch back to easier times.
Even a good marriage can have a lot of sad and lonely times. Every couple has times when they just don’t get along. They also recognize that things will get better if they can get back to how they used to be, so they accept the difficult moments periods because see that the good outweighs the bad.
There are many things that act as glue in a marriage, things that make you stick it out, even if you have doubts about where the relationship is headed. These include kids, assets, obligations, values, and love. But that glue doesn’t guarantee that things will get better on their own.
Most couples simply wait through the hard times, expecting and hoping that the good times will come again. This can pay off when you do get back into sync. Or it can be painful to realize that you have wasted many years with a partner who will never change. That your partner can't see how much they are hurting you.
I’ve spent the last two decades studying couples in crisis. Affairs, blowout arguments, and loneliness top the list of crises that can rock a marriage. The question that keeps me up at night is, “What are the early warning signs that a marriage will have a crisis in the future?” If I could identify the signs on the road to big problems, others could avoid the intense pain that comes with that crisis. Not all couples break up after a crisis. Many stick it out and try to repair the relationship despite the pain. The glue that holds them together makes it worth the effort. So, it's really worth the energy to avoid crisis when possible.
There is a huge payoff for changing things before there is a crisis. How can you know if your marriage is in a normal rough patch or if it’s really headed for trouble? Here is what I’ve learned:
1. Either of you are imagining what life would be like if you were on your own again.
- the arguments immediately turn into full-out battles.
- either of you says mean and nasty things that are hard to get over.
- you give each other the cold shoulder for days while you recover from a fight.
- the idea of divorce or calling it quits comes up.
3. Either of you has said:
- “I’ve had enough.”
- “I can’t take this anymore.”
- “We can’t keep doing this.”
4. You or your partner is “always” doing the wrong thing or “never” gets it right.
5. One of you has stopped arguing. While this might seem like a relief, it may be a sign that your partner has given up. They may be wondering if their life would be better if they ended this marriage.
Most couples wait a long time before getting help. John Gottman’s research found that the average couple will wait six years of having relationship problems before getting help. Many couples experts believe that it’s already too late by that point. It’s not, but it takes a lot more heart-wrenching work to fix things than if they had asked for help earlier in the relationship.
You might identify with several of the signs listed above. If you do, this is the time to make some changes. It won’t be enough to “try harder” using the same strategies that you have already used. You need new strategies to communicate better, work through problems so you can solve them, manage the frustrations that come with disagreements, and develop habits that build your connection.
You can get individualized support to fix these problems in your own relationship. Together, we will:
- Identify and repair the past hurts that block feeling connected.
- Practice problem-solving tools that give you the skills to negotiate any problem so you can stop battling with one another.
- Develop a personalized plan to connect with one another on a daily basis. A successful plan works in the busyness of your life.
- Support your changes over an eight-week period to implement and troubleshoot your individualized plan.