Problems in marriages can range from minor to serious to crisis-level, with each demanding a different kind of help. The following examples illustrate how wide-ranging marriage problems can be. It's important to realize that help is available at all levels and can turn even a hopeless-looking situation around in a radical way.
Joe and Mary aren't communicating like they used to. They disagree often about how to discipline their kids, and they spend less time together. Finally, they recognize the need to refresh their marriage and attend a marriage seminar together at church. At home, they begin to find success implementing the tools they developed.
George and Martha are either fighting or withdrawing, and George has threatened several times to leave. It becomes clear to both of them that their marriage will not survive without making it a priority to learn to relate in healthy ways. They seek out and find a Christian counselor; and after repeated visits, learn to break their destructive patterns.
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.
Diagnosing the Core Problem
Though problems such as those described above are common in marriage, they can move from normal to abnormal in a short time period. If problems in your marriage have become unmanageable, unhealthy and destructive, or cause extreme emotional distress, you may need someone from outside your marriage to help provide objective help – someone who can address the root problem and not simply the presenting issue, that is, the apparent problem.
For example, you may feel your spouse no longer cares about you, but the core issue may be that you have said or done something that deeply hurt him or her. The presenting problem might be financial in nature, such as your spouse failing to control his or her spending, or each of you failing to communicate about what is permitted or not permitted regarding spending limits. The core issue may be not communicating properly or setting appropriate boundaries.
The Bottom Line
If a problem causes considerable distress and you do not seem to be making progress addressing it, approach the problem from a different angle. The best recommendation for ongoing, unmanageable problems would be to visit a licensed Christian marriage counselor. It's best to work with someone rooted in Christian values to complement your beliefs – someone professionally trained to work with relationship issues. Not every counselor is trained to deal with complicated relationship problems, nor does every counselor hold to basic Christian values.