I stood in our backyard frustrated, angry, and glaring through the window at my wife. We were on separate pages and the outlook was bleak. It was year 5 of being married and things were unraveling fast. Mind you, this didn’t drop on us like a bomb. It was more like a slow trickle that gradually, over time, eroded the ground of our marriage away. We had work to do and we needed to start immediately.
Thankfully we did and things turned around. Health returned to our partnership and we learned how vital putting the other’s needs above our own was to the success of our marriage. But it didn’t end there. We’ve had to work everyday since to make sure the heart beat of our relationship is healthy. Truth is, it’s much like taking care of your physical heart. Pay attention daily or you could quickly find yourself in dangerous territory!
How do you know if your marriage has crossed over to this? How do you know when you’re nearing a crisis, or worse, in the middle of one? Here are 6 signs we’ve discovered over our 16 year marriage, and from the countless marriages we’ve helped over the years:
- You’re living separate lives. Your interests, hobbies, friends, and preferences are completely different from one another. When you go out with friends, those friends aren’t friends with one another. When the weekend arrives you head off in separate directions to do different things. You’d be surprised how easy this is to overlook until it’s a glaring issue that everyone around you can clearly see. We’ve never really dealt with this completely but we have found ourselves going different directions, at times, over the years. The way we worked this issue out was to intentionally sit down and work out ways to get back on the same page. Intentionality in marriage goes a long way to fix issues before they become a crisis.
- You miss-communicate over the small things, often. Yes, the small things. Most big items are easy to stay on the same page over. Most. Buying a house, sending a kid to college, paying the mortgage, buying a car etc. etc. It’s usually the little things that trip us up. Paying the electric bill, remembering a date on the calendar, fulfilling a commitment you made to help with something, making an important phone call, and the list goes on. These small, seemingly unimportant things end up piling up into one big communication issue.
- Sex (or intimacy) is sporadic. This has to be on the list because it is an extremely important part of a marital relationship. It’s not the single driving force behind a healthy relationship but it is a force. Sex connects us to our partner physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. It’s impossible to make sex just physical, even for guys. Sex, and intimacy, are expressions of a deep love, appreciation, respect, and commitment to our spouse. When lots of time goes by in between these moments, there’s trouble.
- You don’t enjoy being together. Plain and simple, you don’t like going out together. Perhaps you find little satisfaction in spending quality time together, or you don’t have “time alone” high on your list of priorities. This is downplayed or dismissed often as, “We’re just busy,” or “Our schedule isn’t allowing it right now.” My question back is, “Why?” Why was this a priority before marriage but suddenly it fades into oblivion after you say “I do?” Was your pursuit of your spouse reserved only until you placed a ring on his or her finger, or was there more to it than this?
- You have a greater interest in other people. This may seem like an obvious sign but it’s so easy to overlook. Ask yourself this- “Do I find more fulfillment or excitement in conversing with, or meeting with, other people than I do my spouse?” A related question would be, “Do I enjoy the company of someone from the opposite sex more than I do my spouse?” The bottom line is this: If being with, living life with, or sharing thoughts and dreams with your spouse brings you less fulfillment than it does with other people, especially another man or woman, you’re in a crisis.
- You spend a lot of time away from home. This is one of the biggest warning signs of all. In my years as a family pastor I saw many marriages end in affairs because one spouse spent all of their time elsewhere and not at home. Either that person ended up involved with someone else or the person left at home alone did. Time apart over a great amount of time is a recipe for marital unfaithfulness and marital crisis.
It’s devastating really, and It happens all too often in marriages all over the world. The warning signs are clear but often dismissed or downplayed, over looked, or ignored until a couple ends up a statistic. We would have faced this same fate if we wouldn’t have learned some valuable lessons, and made some big changes, more than a decade ago.
If you’re married and reading this, can I plead with you for a moment?
If some of the points above are jumping out at you, or you’ve realized that some of this is happening in your marriage, stop what you are doing and seek help. It’s critical that you take this step. Often times, couples dismiss the signs (as we’ve already said) which leads to a bigger crisis, or worse- irreparable damage. For the sake of your family, your children and your future, don’t wait to find the help you need.
Have you noticed some of these signs in your marriage? What are you doing about it?
This post originally appeared on Good Men Project as “5 Signs Of A Marriage In Crisis” on Friday, May 22, 2015.