Marriage In Crisis: How To Know When To ‘Retreat’

Written by on June 5, 2013 in Relationships - No comments | Print this page

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hands with wedding bandsTill death do us part

All couples experience problems in their marriage at some point.  Standing at the altar, proclaiming our vows to each other, our family, and our friends, we are probably not thinking about specific issues that we will encounter down the line, but even in such a blissful state, we know they will be there.

It is a certainty; this is why we say “for better or for worse.”  The “worse” is not the part of the relationship couples look forward to, but over time, we develop the tools and skills we need to handle problems as they arise.

Unfortunately, the issues we experience in a marriage can sometimes go far beyond the normal ones we expect.

A marriage in crisis looks very different from one with typical problems, and identifying the crisis and facing the conflict head on is the key to ensuring that it doesn’t mean the demise of your marriage.

Is your marriage in crisis?

So how do you know if your marriage is in crisis?  Typically, a marital crisis is self-perpetuating.  It may be caused by a particular stressful event or conflict that is unresolved, such as infidelity, addiction, or extreme financial difficulties.

The unresolved nature of the problem can cause further conflict and anxiety, and is often characterized by feelings of frustration, hopelessness, anger.  One or both people in the relationship may distance themselves, or suggest distancing themselves further in the form of a separation or divorce.

It is important to recognize that crisis looks different for every couple.

In the article “Help for Various Marriage Problems” on Focus on the Family, writer Mitch Temple uses the following example to suggest what a marriage crisis might look like in one instance:


“Scarlett is devastated to learn that Rhett has had an extramarital affair. At first, she is ready to divorce him. She throws him out of the house. But in time, she realizes that she wants to fight for her marriage.

He wants to rebuild their relationship, too. She insists on a separation until they can complete intensive marriage counseling. After six months, Rhett moves back in, and both commit to new patterns of behavior and continued counseling.”

When it’s time to ask for help

When your marriage has reached the breaking point, it is time for something drastic. One or both people may be convinced that the problems run too deep to fix.  Signs that your marriage has reached its breaking point:

  • Either partner threatens to leave, or asks the other one to leave.
  • Either partner has purposefully distanced themselves from the relationship, with little or no explanation.
  • Either partner has become distanced from their relationship with God.
  • Either partner begins to follow destructive patterns.

It may take support from family or friends to encourage the couple to make some kind of attempt to salvage the relationship.

One common misconception is that Christian couples do not experience the same kind of marriage crises that other couples do.

This is not true; God did not promise that we would not have trials.  However, we can use the resources that God has given us to help navigate through trying times: the Bible, the church, and prayer.

Solving the problem(s)

When it comes to solving the issues at hand, often the first thing that comes to mind is marriage counseling.

It is important to get some kind of outside intervention and direction, but sometimes this is a better solution for couples who are experiencing more minor problems.  It can be an excellent tool when couples are having trouble coping with the everyday issues that arise in a marriage.

An even more radical way to approach such a dire, fragile situation would be to consider a marriage crisis retreat.  Rather than having several short sessions spaced out, a retreat offers an intensive marriage counseling program that allows for continuous work over a span of a few days.

This constant progress can be instrumental in breaking down barriers and getting down to the root of the problems in the relationship.

Some couples may even find benefit in attending Christian marriage retreats.  These Christian marriage intensives can assist couples to heal their marriage while providing tools to develop their relationship as God intended.

Marriage Rescue, a company offering Christian-based intensive marriage retreats, discusses the need for solution oriented counseling.  Common causes for marriage crises include infidelity, conflicts and arguing, communication problems, an accumulation of hurt and mistrust, and blended families.

Marriage Rescue proposes that the best way to handle these issues is to stop circling around the same subjects, find the root of the problem, and work on developing the tools and indentifying resources to solve it.

Another benefit of an intensive marriage retreat like Marriage Rescue’s is that they provide follow-up counseling to make sure couples are continuing to work toward marriage goals.

This is an important component to Christian marriage counseling, because it can be easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve made when you’re back in the “real world”;  there are challenges you will face that you just cannot anticipate in your retreat, and having access to your counselors can make the transition much easier.

Whichever solution you choose to pursue, the most important thing is that you face your marriage problems head-on, and consider getting an outside perspective from a qualified professional.

Whether you solicit the advice of a marriage counselor, a Christian marriage counselor, or attend a marriage crisis retreat, you are making a commitment to work toward saving your relationship, and that is the most important thing.

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David Tooley is a freelance blogger who enjoys writing on various topics. He has watched his closest friends navigate through rocky points in their relationships, and hopes that others can benefit from the information he has garnered by trying to help them.

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