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12 Strategies to Survive a Crisis in your Marriage

When life becomes overwhelming, and you face a major life crisis, how you respond can determine whether you spiral out of control or rise to the occasion. Today we are going to talk about how to survive a crisis. We're talking about a crisis in your marriage, or your committed partnership.

A crisis is an intense season of difficulty in your relationship. When you discover your partner had an affair. When you catch your partner lying about something, again. When you admit you have betrayed the one you love the most. Perhaps when you get the diagnosis of cancer.

If your marriage is on the brink of breaking apart, when you are questioning if you can continue on, you are in crisis. It's like the moment you smell smoke and recognize the house is on fire. The more you can recognize the crisis you are in, and take clear, specific action, the better you will do.

Every situation is unique, but I've learned through the years that there are specific, often simple, steps that can drastically help marriages in the midst of crisis situations.

Today we will talk about the 12 strategies of change when you are faced with a crisis. I'll share a description about each of these 12 steps, and give you questions to journal after each step.

12 Strategies for Crisis

1. Get clear.

A helpful initial step is to recognize and accept that you are actually in a crisis. Recognizing the enormity of the situation you find yourself in is the beginning of dealing with the situation. If you avoid reality, minimize it, or run from your pain or fear, you won't help yourself or anyone else.

So get clear and recognize you are in a tough situation. Acknowledge your feelings, your fears, the stressors. Getting clear that you are in a crisis can actually be a powerful way to get through the crisis and not extend it even longer than it needs to be, or have things escalate and get worse.

A helpful way to get clear is to write it down. Write out what you are facing, thinking, and feeling.

Questions to Journal:

What is the crisis I am facing?

How close am I to the cliff?|

2. Get safe.

When we are in a crisis it can be easy to get flooded, and to have difficulty thinking straight. But the truth is, whether you are facing physical or emotional danger, you need to be safe. Your safety, and your children's safety, if you have them, should always be your top priority.

Step back and focus on your safety.

Questions to Journal:

What are the dangers or difficulties you are facing?

What do I need in order to be safe? What do you need to feel safe? Sometimes these are two different things.

3. Get support.

No one should go through a crisis alone. Sometimes a lie we believe is that we are all alone, that no one else could understand. We can feel intense shame when going through a crisis and isolate ourselves. Isolating will only make things worse.

So connect with trustworthy people who are able to help.

Lean on your support system. Maybe the last thing you want to do is receive help, let alone talk about this, but you need to find someone you can talk to. Someone who won't make things worse. Someone who won't just get angry at your partner. Someone who can keep what you say confidential.

A select few people might need to know everything you are struggling with. But you can rely on the support of others without them knowing the specifics of your struggle. It's okay to lean on your support system without people knowing everything.

We all have seasons where we need extra support, where we need perspective. In a crisis we are in critical need of a supportive community. The stronger your support, the better equipped you’ll be to navigate the crisis you are facing.

It might be helpful to talk to a professional. The value of talking to a counselor therapist is that it can give you perspective and support and insight from someone who's sole purpose is to help you. Counseling, I like to say, is two people caring for one person.

There are skilled professionals whose sole specialty is to help marriages when they face a crisis that could break it apart. Find that person who fits you. If it might be me, reach out today to set up an initial call, and take the step to get an expert guide to help you navigate through this difficult season.

No matter what your problems or challenges are, no matter if you feel like you are the only one who has ever faced this...there are professionals who specialize in helping you with exactly what you are in crisis over.

Questions to Journal:

Who is safe to talk to?

What will I tell them?

Who is not safe to talk to?

4. Get prioritized.

Focus on what is essential. Only the fundamentals matter during the intensity of a crisis. Let go of the rest.

Give yourself permission to say no to what is non-essential in this season.

Stop doing the things you normally do when you are at full capacity. Say no to distractions. Give yourself the space and time that you need to focus on putting out the fire.

Identify what you need to say no to. You can use a 'not-to-do list' to clarify what you need to avoid, let go of, or say no to in this season.

Questions to Journal:

What can I do that is most likely to improve my life?

What is most important right now that I need to focus on?

What can I say no to in this season? What is on my not-to-do list?

5. Get care.

When we hit a crisis it's easy to forget about our basic needs. It's important to think about what you need. What are basic ways to meet your needs? How can you experience comfort? Seeking out simple pleasure, and basic self care is a great start. Sometimes it's as basic as taking a shower. Going for a walk. Putting on clean clothes. It's also worth considering taking additional steps to seek out ways of taking care of yourself that might feel extravagant or unusually excessive.

One way to care for yourself is to add in extra margin in your schedule. Give yourself extra time to not do anything productive. Allow yourself extra time for tasks. When you allow extra margin, extra time and space in your schedule, you can reduce stress; and when you're in a crisis it's best to reduce your stress in every way you can.

Taking days off work, adding margin to your schedule, giving yourself permission to care for yourself in a new way, and receiving help in ways you normally wouldn't are all ways you can get care.

Remember, be gentle with yourself.

Questions to Journal:

How can I take care of myself today?

What are simple ways you can experience comfort?

6. Get quiet

In a crisis, the fear can be so loud! Getting quiet, taking time to be alone, and to reflect deeply can help immensely. You can keep your life so full of noise and distractions that you are avoiding the very thing that will give you freedom.

One form of freedom is the gift of being alone. Seeking out solitude, rather than isolating, is an intentional step towards quiet. Towards calm.

Deepen your stillness by meditating. Being mindful will help you be more present and make the best decisions you can. Take 10 deep breaths in a quiet place and begin to feel whatever you need to feel.

Get outside into nature. Seek out wild places without people, and you will get quiet. Perhaps not initially, but learn to listen and to sit with your monkey mind, your racing thoughts.

Get quiet and learn to observe your thoughts and feelings without judgement.

Questions to Journal:

Where can I go outside to be alone?

How can I sit in stillness today?

7. Get inspired

Don't only rely on your best thinking to guide you through a situation. Seek outside wisdom and inspiration. Whatever you are facing, learn from others who have gone before you and experienced similar situations. Read a biography, watch an inspiring talk, get alone in nature, listen to music that speaks to your soul. Change your inputs and you can change your outputs. Keep daring greatly. You can be mentored by someone you've never met. Get inspired and learn by reading about how they faced difficulties.

Questions to Journal:

Who is inspiring to me? What would they say to me about the situation I'm in?

What beauty can I experience today?

What can I read that is inspiring?

8. Get a process

Get good rhythms in your life. Committing to a specific process of transformation can be a powerful help when you are in crisis.

You likely didn't get to this place overnight, so be patient, because it will take time to change and get out of this crisis stage. But things can change. With an intentional process, things won’t stay like this forever.

Your direction determines your destination. Focus on what you can do today, and as you choose the same process each day, over time, it will determine where you end up.

Working with a marriage counselor, attending a support group, working the 12 Steps with a sponsor, and/or improving your morning routine are all ways you can have transformational processes in your life.

Questions to Journal:

Am I headed in the right direction?

What am I committed to?

Will what I'm committed to change me the way I want to be changed?

9. Get committed

When you are facing a crisis in your marriage, it is rarely best to immediately choose to divorce your spouse. Unless you are in imminent physical danger, you shouldn't make a quick decision to leave your spouse for good.

Give it some time. But regardless of what you decide in the future, giving yourself intentional time will help you not make a decision only out of pain.

Commit to a season of reflection. If you are really struggling with the question of if you will stay or leave, it can be helpful to give yourself permission to not need to decide for a season. Say 3 months, or 6 months. Give yourself this time to do the work to get clarity.

In the midst of pain and the intensity of the crisis you are in, it can be easy and natural to want to run from it. But you made a vow when you got married, so the default, when you are in crisis, is to stay, and be committed to figure out if the marriage can be saved.

Questions to Journal:

What will I regret in the future if I don't commit to an intentional season before I decide to stay or go?

What would I do if I were 10 times more courageous?

What would I need to get more committed?

10. Get specific

Part of feeling overwhelmed is that it is difficult to think specifically. We can experience a general sense of dread, or fear the worst happening. So it is critical to get specific in your thinking, and in your actions. Getting specific can move things into clarity.

One way to get specific is to write out your thoughts. Moving things from your thoughts to writing them out forces you to be more clear, more concrete. The simple act of writing out your thoughts helps you be more specific and identify where you might be overgeneralizing.

Questions to Journal:

How can I break this down?

What's a small way I can move forward?

What can I do next?

11. Get perspective

The world is what you make of it. It's all about perspective and the meaning you make. A crisis is no easy thing, but can become a powerful opportunity for growth. Often the pain that comes with a crisis can create new growth that we never would have experienced if we didn't face the crisis head on.

You can get perspective by externalizing your thoughts. Writing things down, or talking things out is a way to get outside of only your own thoughts. First writing things out then reading off those notes to express your thoughts can deepen your awareness and help shift your perspective even more powerfully.

Remind yourself, this too shall pass. This is only a season. It won't always be this way. You can grow through this and because of it. You can either become bitter and resentful, or you can become wise.

Questions to Journal:

What are my top values that I want to influence how I make decisions?

What is the opportunity here?

What is the worst that could happen? How likely is that? If I do nothing different, will it increase the likelihood that the worst happens or that things change?

12. Get moving

There may be things you are avoiding that feel overwhelming. Simply taking thoughtful action can change things. Sometimes all you need to do is get on with it and do that thing you know you need to do but have been dreading.

Not taking action will not change your situation. It's good to reflect, but you also need to eventually get moving and take action. Keep taking intentional steps forward and eventually your crisis will shift and change into the next season.

When you're in a crisis, just take the next step forward no matter how small.

Questions to Journal:

What's the next right step?

What small action I can take that would make today better?

If these strategies have been helpful, and you are looking for a therapist to navigate a crisis in your marriage, please don't go through it alone. Reach out to me for support today.

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