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Is Your Marriage in Crisis?

A marriage crisis typically occurs when an unusual amount of stress or unresolved conflict causes the level of anxiety to become too intense for the couple to manage. As a result, anger, resentment, dissatisfaction, frustration and hopelessness take control of the relationship. The couple typically continues the negative interactions – or disengages completely from one another, and the relationship shuts down. I call this the boiling point or marital meltdown in the marriage. It is usually at this place in the crisis process that a couple calls seeking help from a counselor, minister, friend or family member. Some counselors define a marriage crisis as a marriage where one or both partners desire to end the marriage.

Every day, you're faced with a broad variety of challenges and trials. Individuals and families are constantly exposed to news about natural and man-made disasters such as domestic violence, terrorist attacks, abuse, rape, workplace accidents, crashes, military conflicts and weather-related disasters. According to statistics, there are approximately 36 million reported crimes and crime victims each year in America. The emotional, physical and spiritual responses that follow a crisis are often more than most people can manage alone.

People in crises such as these need others to help them – including counselors, pastors, police officers, social workers, Red Cross workers and others to intervene in their lives. The same applies to a marriage crisis. You must be open to others' help.

But what exactly is a crisis? How does crisis affect people? What are the short- and long-term effects?

Based on personal experience and knowledge, the definition of a crisis that I prefer is: "any situation or stimulus that causes high levels of emotional anguish or disparity in individuals, and which leaves them feeling helpless, out of balance and out of control."

Crises are capable of wounding us deeply, no matter what or who causes them. Some of the most destructive and devastating traumas are those caused or created by those we care about most: our family and friends. An example of this type of hurt could be a marriage where an affair has occurred. The emotional and social pressure on the wounded partner is far-reaching and undoubtedly long-term. There is nothing that causes more emotional pain in a marriage than to be betrayed by someone you love, depend on and trust.

I am convinced that the emotional scars and wounds that occur in families are some of the most unpleasant and damaging on the face of the earth. Crisis is difficult in and of itself, and even more so when it is caused by people whom we care for.

If a crisis has occurred or if problems have become unmanageable, you have a right to feel upside-down. Your entire life has changed in an instant. Your body, mind and emotions are thrown out of balance. You probably need outside intervention and help.

On the positive side, a crisis can lead to a solution. It can become the bridge that moves you from pain to a new beginning.

Two symbols represent the concept of crisis in the Chinese language: danger and opportunity. In the ancient Greek language, the word crisis comes from two root words: decision and turning point. These symbols and words most accurately describe the underlying compositions of crisis: danger and opportunity, decision and turning point.

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Next in this Series: Is My Marriage Worth Saving?

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