Last Updated on October 23, 2023 by Benson Varghese
When couples marry, it’s usually because they’re madly in love and want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. Unfortunately, not all marriages have a fairy tale ending. In fact, half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce.
Of course, most people don’t just wake up one day and decide they want out. Usually, their marriage has been sick and in a state of deterioration for a long time.
In this article, we take a look at the six stages of marital crisis. Recognizing these signs could make a difference between salvaging your relationship or ending up in divorce court.
1. “Honeymoon” Stage
This stage marks a beautiful beginning when both partners are hopelessly in love and completely in tune with one another. They see each other as partners, best friends, and confidants. They share common goals, enjoy spending time together, and resolve conflict healthily. Their future is bright and their dreams are big. They are building a foundation that they know will withstand the tests of time.
This stage is both a gift and a responsibility, setting the tone for the journey ahead. It’s a time that partners should cherish and actively work to maintain throughout their marriage.
2. Disillusionment Stage
The second stage is when life becomes real. It’s when the happy couple realizes that their partner isn’t perfect and that love alone cannot solve all of their problems. They may start to feel disappointed, annoyed, or irritated because their spouse is not fulfilling their expectations. Small quirks or idiosyncrasies that were once endearing might start to grate on nerves. This stage is sometimes referred to as an “Uh-oh” phase, where one or both partners start to question whether they made a mistake.
Communication is often the first casualty in this stage. Instead of open dialogues and empathetic understanding, criticism, contempt, and defensiveness might emerge. Small disagreements can ignite significant conflicts, and how couples navigate these disputes is crucial.
This stage should not be viewed as a sign of doom but an opportunity. It’s a time to recommit to the partnership through actions and words, to address issues head-on rather than letting them fester, and to find ways to reconnect with the reasons you fell in love in the first place.
3. Constant Conflict Stage
When disillusionment and discontent fester, it can lead to the third stage of marital crisis: constant conflict. In this stage, problems may start to feel insurmountable. The couple is in constant conflict and disagreements over finances, parenting, or trivial matters become commonplace. Criticism may become personal, trust may erode, and in the heat of an argument, couples might say or do things that are difficult to take back.
This stage, if left unchecked, can cause severe damage to marital bonds, and separation or divorce may cross the mind of the disillusioned spouse(s). This is the phase where external support, such as marriage counseling, can make a big difference in helping couples identify and address deeper issues. The willingness to seek help during this stage can mean the difference between reviving the relationship or continuing down a path that could lead to its dissolution.
4. Detachment Stage
When persistent conflict continues, couples may enter a phase that, on the surface, might seem calmer, but in reality, is indicative of a profound disconnection — the detachment stage. In this phase, partners may begin to withdraw from each other emotionally to cope with the ongoing strife. It’s a form of self-preservation, a way to avoid the consistent pain that interactions have come to represent. Though this detachment might bring a superficial peace, it is a significant red flag, signaling deep-seated issues that haven’t been resolved but instead ignored.
In this stage, couples might start living more like roommates than spouses, with interactions that are more functional than affectionate. Conversations may be limited to logistics and necessities, avoiding deeper topics that could lead to conflict. The emotional intimacy that once defined the relationship is a distant memory, and activities, even if done together, are carried out of routine rather than a genuine desire for each other’s company. Even more concerning, one or both partners might start finding their emotional needs met outside the marriage, whether through work, hobbies, socializing, or even infidelity, further widening the distance between them.
At this stage of marital crisis, repair is possible, though it requires substantial effort. Couples need to acknowledge the distance that has developed and take deliberate steps to bridge the emotional divide. Rekindling emotional intimacy is crucial, whether that’s through spending quality time together, engaging in honest and open communication, revisiting the experiences that once brought them joy, or seeking the help of a marital therapist. The detachment stage is a critical crossroads.
5. Loss of Hope Stage
A profound sense of hopelessness can set in when a marriage progresses into the fifth stage, casting a shadow over a relationship that once seemed invincible. A significant shift marks this stage — efforts to mend the relationship no longer seem worthwhile. The belief that things can improve dwindles, and what was once a partnership can feel like a trap from which there’s no escape. It’s not just the loss of hope; it’s the evaporation of motivation to try to recapture what’s been lost.
During this phase of a marital crisis, one or both partners may start to visualize their lives separately and may even find the thought relieving. This mental and emotional shift towards life outside the marriage is a tell-tale sign of the profound disconnection that has occurred. Conversations about the future of the relationship may be met with indifference. The pain of conflict, the silence of detachment, and the accumulated disappointments lead to a resignation that the love that once was is no more.
The key to navigating this phase is to reignite, however faintly, the spark of hope. It involves remembering why the marriage was worth fighting for once and believing it can be worth fighting for again. It requires a willingness to change — not just in one partner, but in both, and in the dynamics of the relationship itself. This stage is a call to action: to communicate openly, to seek support, and to confront the issues that have led the marriage to this point. It’s a reminder that though hope seems distant, it’s never completely out of reach.
6. Decision-Making Stage
Reaching this stage signifies a pivotal moment in the marital crisis. Dissatisfaction, hurt, and perhaps betrayal have brought the couple to a critical decision-making point: determining whether the marriage can be saved or if it’s time to part ways and proceed with a divorce.
This phase is as much about introspection as it is about evaluating the relationship. Both partners must honestly assess their feelings, roles in the marriage’s deterioration, and willingness to invest in reconciliation and repair. It’s about weighing the gravity of their issues and grievances against the marriage’s redeemable qualities and the life they’ve built together. Are the problems they’re facing surmountable, or are the rifts too deep? Is there enough love, respect, and commitment remaining to warrant a dedicated effort to rebuild, or has the foundation crumbled beyond repair?
For many, this decision isn’t made in isolation or haste. It may involve lots of soul-searching, conversations with trusted confidants and family members, marriage counseling, or even a separation period. Regardless of the path taken, it’s vital to approach this stage with open communication, honesty, and self-awareness. The decision to save a marriage or end it is not easy, but it is one that will profusely impact both partners and, if they are parents, their children.
Marital Crisis Ending in Divorce? We Can Help.
If a decision has been made to end the marriage, the next step is to start the divorce process. This can be a complicated and emotional journey, especially if there are children involved. That’s why having the right legal team on your side is crucial.
At Varghese Summersett Family Law Group, we understand that divorce can be overwhelming and stressful. Our compassionate and experienced family law attorneys will guide you through every step of the process, from filing for divorce to asset division and child custody and support. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for you and your family.
Our team is also well-versed in alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, which can save time, money, and emotional strain during a divorce. We are dedicated to finding the most efficient and amicable resolution for our clients.
If you believe that divorce is your next step, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us today at (817) 900-3220 or contact us online. You are not alone; we will be with you every step of the way.