“My wife left me two days ago.” “My husband says he wants a divorce.” “I don’t know what to do, please can you help me?” I get desperate calls and emails like these from men and women in crisis everyday.
Unfortunately, for many couples, one of the reasons they are in a crisis is because they waited too long to get help. Consider Tim, a man whose wife left him after he had ignored her numerous requests for them to go to marriage counseling. Now it appeared to him that she was gone for good. He was panicked and was having a hard time sleeping and focusing on his work. He was in a crisis.
I agreed to work with Tim and helped him take some immediate actions to stabilize his life, as well as some actions he might take to possibly save his marriage. We also talked about what he could do to maintain perspective and hope in the face of a seemingly hopeless situation.
Tim’s story is a common one. He had been given numerous warnings to change, which he dismissed. His wife had asked to go to counseling which he had ignored, saying he thought they could handle their own problems. Out of desperation she had left and indicated she did not want any contact. It is very tempting in such a crisis to make a number of mistakes in an attempt to stabilize a troubling situation.
Here is my advice for what to do if you find yourself in a crisis like Tim:
First, be careful not to overreact. Our emotions run wild when facing a crisis. Our brain screams DANGER. We tend to panic and in our panic-driven state don’t think clearly. We think all or nothing, black and white and catastrophe. We must, as we work to calm ourselves, remind ourselves to try not to overreact and realize the storm will pass. Things always become clearer in time. It is best to pause, spend time quietly considering our situation and not make any sudden decisions.
Second, try to maintain a sense of normalcy. Yes, I know this sounds impossible, but eating well, good sleep and exercise are critical to your emotional health and will help you to make better decisions. Continue to go to work and all the other aspects of your life. As distracted as you are by your crisis, and as much as you want to do everything and anything to fix the situation, do all the activities that have brought you comfort in the past.
Third, get immediate support and seek out wise counsel. You need lots of support during a crisis. Don’t make the mistake of believing you are bothering people by asking for support. True friends will be happy you have reached out to them and are willing to listen to your story and offer hope which is desperately needed. Be very careful, however, not to use this opportunity to malign your mate or make it appear you are the “right” one in the situation.
Fourth, get professional counseling. As vital as it is to have the support of friends, they can’t replace professional, unbiased help. Find an experienced marriage counselor that will help you understand the actions that led up to the crisis, but also help you discover hope in the midst of the crisis.
Fifth, discover the critical message in the crisis. A crisis, for as horrific as it is, can be the best time to discover more about yourself and your marriage. Consider the reasons your mate took the actions they did. Why has this crisis occurred? What do you need to learn from this situation? Be brutally honest with yourself and begin the process of change and growth;
Finally, ask what God can teach you in the crisis. You are not alone in your crisis. God is in the mix with you and wants to teach you things about yourself and His will for your life. He wants to mold you into his image and cares deeply for you. Spend time in prayer and meditation, reflecting on Scriptures that offer hope and healing.