The message on my voicemail sounded frantic.
“Please call me as soon as you can,” the male caller said. “My name is Tim and my wife left me two weeks ago. I need your help.”
I returned the call and Tim and I talked for a few minutes.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“It’s a story you’ve probably heard a hundred times,” he said anxiously. “I’ve been a fool. I waited too long to get help and now my wife has left. I thought she would come right back but she hasn’t and I’m not sure what to do. She’s telling me it’s over. I can’t live without her.”
I listened as Tim, a 40-year-old man who had been married 20 years, gave me a brief overview of his story. He sounded very distraught and we agreed to talk the next day.
I called Tim the next day and listened in more depth to his story. Indeed, he had waited too long to get help. He had ignored his wife’s numerous requests for them to get help and now it appeared to him that she was gone for good. He was understandably panicked and said he was having a hard time eating, sleeping and even focusing on his work. He was in a crisis.
As I spoke with Tim, we agreed to work together, determining he needed to take some immediate actions to stabilize his life as well as some possible actions he might take to save his marriage. We also talked about what he could do to maintain perspective and even 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. I’d like to highlight a few actions that helped Tim and might help you as well:
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, maintain a sense of normalcy. Yes, I know this sounds impossible, but it’s important to force yourself to eat well, continue good sleep routines and exercise. 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, anything to help, do all the activities that have brought you comfort in the past.
Third, get immediate support. You need lots of love and support during crises. 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 huge doses of hope which is desperately needed. Be very careful, however, not to malign your mate or make it appear you are the “right” one in the situation. Also, talk only to people who offer wise counsel and would be approved by your mate.
Fourth, get professional counseling. For as helpful as friends are, they can’t replace professional help. Ask your friends for a professional referral to the best marriage counselor you can find, someone who will challenge you to grow. Begin the process of learning about this crisis and the actions that led up to it. A good counselor will help you discover the 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.
Are you facing a crisis? Consider the opportunity in the crisis and what you need to learn. If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group for women struggling with emotional abuse.
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