Relationship breakdowns, relationship rescues…introducing the Couples Crisis Scale!
You know your relationship is in trouble…but have you wished you had a way to know just how detrimental the current relationship crisis or marriage dynamic was becoming, in terms of the longevity or survival chances for your marriage union? Have you wished you knew what was ‘okay’ to weather in a marriage, and what scenarios were likely to lead to a catastrophic marriage breakdown and divorce?
Well I’ve developed a Couples Crisis Scale, which essentially depicts the potential fallout from a ‘hurricane’ or ‘cyclonic’ impact of a damaging event, much like a large hurricane or cyclone is listed as a “Category 2” “Category 3” “Category 4” and so forth.
Surviving Relationship Storms and other Marital Traumas like Affairs, Dishonesty, and Cheating Wives or Cheating Husbands
Most marriages eventually have difficult experiences they go through; the question is, how does the marriage ‘weather’ a disagreement, communication breakdown, drifting apart…or storm?
And are the couples ADDING to the potential catastrophe level of a relationship storm brewing….or are they soothing it over by understanding human nature — firstly, their own human nature and contributions to the relationship crisis — and secondly, the impact of the dynamic between the couple (which includes both partner’s contributions to stormy conditions)?
Marriage Fallouts and Crisis Scale Categories
We can all relate to these damaging storms…Any person in a long term relationship is likely to have survived a few very difficult emotions and challenges in their marriage or other committed relationship.
But now, we can use the categories we normally reserve for major hurricanes and cyclones, as a gauge of:
- the potential fallout factors in our marriage if we don’t seek counselling and professional help.
- the potential for lawyers to sniff the hook they have into you to increase their income by dragging out an acrimonious divorce settlement with custody and financial settlement.
- the potential to be left starting over….losing your retirement security or family home….simply because you didn’t do anything about your relationship crisis point…until it became a Category 5 in terms of catastrophic relationship storm levels.
I’ll write more about the scenarios that lead to these catastrophe levels in future blogs, but in the interim, let’s look at current situations that might indicate a catastrophic impact of a relationship storm….such as an affair, an actual separation, or frequent fighting and put-downs — and other damaging relationship patterns or events that spell doom for most marriages, unless they get help. And remember, in my experience as a marriage counsellor and Couples Coach, repairing marriages is typically easier than most people think, plus it can also take much less time than most people think. That noted, overall, repairing a relationships is often (but not always) a less traumatic and more fulfilling option over time (not for everyone, but for most who are willing to give finding love again a go).
Saving a marriage is typically far quicker and easier to than to go through an acrimonious divorce and custody battle. The trouble is, for most couples, is that they see their relationship as a ‘throw away union’ or ‘temporary relationship’ with little real commitment. We find it easier to get the name of a good divorce lawyer than to get the name of an excellent marriage therapist or good relationship repair facilitator (relationship therapist/counsellor or Couples Coach).
How potentially damaging is your current marriage dynamic on the couples crisis scale?
On a 5 point crisis scale, we often see the following.
Category 1 Cyclone – Minor Damage
- Marital Crisis Synopsis: Like a bad summer’s storm, it’s rainy and wet, with lightning and thunder (upset words, blame and/or accusations); but you know it’ll be short lived (blow over).
- Frequency in a marriage: Common for most marriages but not all; might occur 1 to 4 x a year but if occurs more than monthly, could be spiralling into a Category 2 storm .
- You’ll see a few of these if you stay married to the same person for more than 3 to 4 years (or to any person, for any length of time).
- How to weather this type of relationship storm: Self care, self awareness, compassion for self and spouse. Talk to the dogs/cat/goldfish or your best friend or mother/sister/cousin. Divert your current focus with a favourite walk, pet outing, music and/or a hobby. Take a yoga class or go to the gym. Let the feelings subside and, if the issue is really minor in the bigger scheme of things, brush it off. If major, schedule a time to discuss it collaboratively when the emotion and distress or irritation has fully (or mostly) abated.
Category 2 Cyclone – Extensive Damage
- Marital Crisis Synopsis: It’s really windy and wet, for much longer.
- A few tree limbs may have fallen down, perhaps there’s even hail damage.
- Both feel a bit weathered by the discussion or crisis (such as a major disagreement, misunderstanding, or less significantly damaging breach of honesty than an outright affair or long-term deception) and may need some time alone to settle down and come to grips with the fact that— yes — you’re a human married to a human, and neither one is perfect. Annoying — at times extremely so — aggravating, perhaps at times — but someone you love, who you accommodate in terms of quirks and…less desirable traits (so long as no one is seriously hurt; even if there’s a few bruised egos along the way).
- Frequency in a marriage: Common for most couples, about 1 to 2 x a year or every 2 years. If happens more than 4-5 times a year, is likely spiralling into a Category 3 storm or risky situation in terms of sustainability; but generally part of normal marriages (so long as no violence or overt or covert control is involved).
- How to weather this type of relationship storm:
- Self care, self awareness, compassion for self and spouse.
- Remember that humans are never perfect and all relationships have challenges, and write down what you love about the person.
- Debrief to a friend so you don’t overly nag or criticise; and speak about the issues when you’re both calm and have some perspective.
- Friends, and pets, and family can come in handy in events like this; but don’t be overly reliant on someone who is very negative about relationships in general.
Category 3 Cyclone – Devastating
- Marital Crisis Synopsis: Sudden or brewing storm, can last for days. Minor flooding or road closures/diversions. Sometimes the road closures mean you need to take a different route home (by your sister’s house or a close friend). Loud sounds and frustrated sighs, even bitchiness or resentment. Verges on ‘should we really be together or not’ discussions but more silently considered than spoken out loud. One or both parties are frustrated or highly irritated “pulling hair out” over something the other one says or does, or more often, what they do NOT say or do NOT do.
- That noted, sometimes words like “maybe we should get divorced” or “if you keep that up, I’m leaving” will escape during more emotional periods of time.
- May or may not involve a breach of trust or when someone feels slighted, ignored, put down, or disrespected OR if one partner is not wanting to give as much as the other partner; or accommodate a special event.
- May involve words like ‘you’re selfish’ or ‘you think only of yourself’ or ‘I’m the only one pulling my weight around here’.
- Frequency in a marriage: Moderately common for most couples, about 1 to 2 x a year or once every 2 years.
- You’ll likely see a few of these, on average, in a ratio of about 1 to 2 incidents every year for the “pulling your weight” talks.
- The level of crisis, however, being a 3, means you’ll likely see these only once or twice every 3 to 6 years, if you stay married to the same person for that long. If these relationship storms or sentiments occur more than 4-5 times a year, the scenarios leading to them could mean you’re relationship is likely spiralling into a Category 4 storm or very risky situation (or is nearly there/moving between a 3 and 4 category) and the sustainability of your marriage is not less assured and in question; generally, however, part of normal long-term marriages, presenting about once or twice every 3 to 6 years, so long as no violence or overt or covert control is involved).
- How to weather this type of relationship storm:
- If possible, get some counselling to see if you can resolve the issue.
- Sometimes a shift in lifestyle, location or home responsibilities/child care duties and shopping etc. can help.
- Self care, self awareness, compassion for self and spouse and putting yourself first if you feel the other person isn’t pulling their weight (take some ‘me’ time and do things you love).
- Work on relationship balance and lifestyle balance and self-sufficiency, but be sure the romance and intimacy stays alive or it becomes risky in terms of an affair or platonic sexless marriage or no-intimacy relationship (you become like flatmates and are at risk of a divorce).
- Remember that humans are never perfect and all relationships have challenges, and write down what you love about the person and why you married them.
- Come up with innovative ways to get the balance right and have some romantic together time without the kids/dogs/parents intruding.
- Debrief to a friend so you don’t overly criticise or harbour resentment; and speak about the issues when you’re both calm and have some perspective.
- Many but not all couples can work through this point alone; but most do not do so fully or successfully, leaving themselves vulnerable to a future split or Category 4 or 5 crisis in the marriage (an affair, intensifying anger or resentment, manipulation or put-downs, and other unhealthy dynamics that develop when rifts and disappointments aren’t understood, talked about, and healed between the couple, or are simply swept under the rug by one partner or both partners).
- Consider counselling if you have unresolved conflicts in the relationship that continually reappear and cause havoc between the two of you; especially if the anger or resentment or disappointment and frustration is increasing in intensity or duration.
But marriage counselling at this early stage would stave off quite a few acrimonious divorces; as timing is everything.
Warning: Category 4 devastation approaching…might even be a Category 5 relationship storm. If you get relationship counselling during an early mid-point crisis, such as at a level 3 — it’ll be a lot easier to heal and recover from, and get back to love, than if you approach marriage counselling when you’ve suffered the devastating impacts of a more significant, catastrophic relationship storm. That’s why the earlier you can seek marriage counselling from a professional relationship coach, the better the likely outcome, and the less time it will take to get your relationship back on track. Don’t wait until it’s too late… Book A Call With Me Here
Category 4 Cyclone – Catastrophic
- Marital Crisis Synopsis: A fairly significant storm event (relationship crisis). Either a sudden crisis, such as from dishonesty, husband or wife cheating, spending a lot of money without consulting you, too much travel, an unexpected job loss or an affair, the relationship is at a tumultuous state. Collateral damage to the relationship stability and feelings of warmth. Typically involves more than frustration and fleeting anger, but brewing hostility, deep anger and manipulation are possible. Might involve one or both parties disappearing for a few hours or days in anger or to clear their heads. Internal debates or near-decision making about a divorce are not uncommon in this state of crisis in a marriage.
- Frequency in a marriage: Most marriages will get to a stage 4 crisis at least once (in long term marriages of over 10 years).
- Damage to your relationship of a Category 4 Couples Crisis: Catastrophic. Some couples separate and divorce right away, or a rift develops that is never fully healed, and the relationship moves into an unsatisfying shell or into a catastrophic level 5 crisis (leading to losing the relationship/family home, getting divorced and/or other family crisis points).
- How to weather this type of relationship storm: While self care, self awareness, and compassion for self and spouse are always crucial, this crisis stage is not going to be helped by talking to the dog, cat, parrot or your closest friend. This one is definitely where you need professional help.
Category 5 Cyclone – Absolute Worst Destruction – will be covered further in my next blog.
- Category 5 Storm Synopsis: Damage from the landfall of a crisis 5 relationship storm: Absolute destruction and devastation. Nasty separations and divorces. Broken hearts and depression. Betrayals that lead to serious psychological or social harms to the betrayed party. Other scenarios.
- Frequency in a marriage: At least half of all marriages will experience a Category 5 relationship crisis at some point in 10 to 20 years of marriage.
- Risk management: Get professional counselling independently and as a couple. Work on healing yourself and understanding and healing from the crisis and the dynamics that contributed to the crisis (sometimes these are random events, like someone falling in love with a partner at work, or someone finally revealing they are attracted to their same gender and you’re not that gender). If you’re partner has betrayed you or you found out they were living a double life, or refused to get help for an addiction, or is abusive and otherwise damaging, you may benefit from short-term and long-term therapy with a counselor you feel you can trust. Give healing the time it takes. Don’t rush into a decision or divorce, unless you know that’s the best outcome no matter what (usually it’s an instinctive response, but many marriages can be brought back to love with some professional counselling — it’s uncomfortable at times, but far less so than a nasty divorce and financial and family home disruptions, not to mention child custody issues and dynamics of who has the kids on which weekend, who’s paying for what, and so forth.
Details are on this page.If you are struggling through a relationship crisis then don’t let the pain and disconnection drag on any more.
Make contact and get help right away.
In an urgent marital crisis? On the brink of a separation or divorce?
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WARNING! – If you are at a Level 3 or more then please reach out for help. Things will not improve without help. You simply cannot do it on your own.
Can’t get to the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne (Brighton area) for marriage counselling?
International assistance through online sessions using Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp or Zoom or in-person marriage counselling sessions in Australia (Melbourne based).
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to helping facilitate your relationship healing (repair and recovery).