5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

The best relationship advice I can give

After more than 10 years in a generally happy union, I recently realised that – like Jon Snow – I knew nothing.

Nothing at all.

I once read that good marriages begin after the first gigantic crisis. When you begin again, in spite of everything, and work to make it through the anger and fear and sadness.

Separately, the wise and inimitable Alain de Botton has said that pessimism offers a solution to a lot of the pressures around relationships. Romanticism is unhelpful, and makes a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling.

Depressing as those two paragraphs may sound, I think they ring with truth.

There are five main things this crisis taught me. Here is what I’ve learned.

Love is a verb

Don’t just tell me you love me; show me through your actions.

So many of our habits and behaviours towards our partners are manipulative

Whether we realise it or not. Awareness is the first step.

Do not tolerate sustained unhappiness in a relationship

Don’t put up with it now, hoping that it will improve eventually, if you have no inkling at all for when that might be. Think about how long you could stick it out if nothing changed – a month? Six months? A year?

Never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm

There is no glory in martyrdom. This isn’t a social movement; this is your life. Your happiness is what’s at stake.

We are flawed

All of us. So very deeply. This is something we must accept if we are to move forward.

There it is – the best relationship advice I have to give. Have you been through a relationship crisis, and has it taught you anything new?

9 thoughts on “5 things I’ve learned from surviving a marriage crisis

  • Reply Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial August 25, 2016 at 23:25

    I learned through my relationship crisis that otherwise intelligent people can be scared thinking about their future and thus do not think about it at all, leading them to be really bad when it comes to money (both when it comes to saving and when it comes to communicating about it). I also learned that my relationship was much weaker than I thought, which is still a huge blow whenever I think about it.

    Not about relationship crisis, but rather on romanticism: I remember reading Madame Bovary during my first big breakup and it was the best thing. I highly recommend it as a tool when you need to knock the silly martyring romantic right out of ye.

    • Reply eemusings August 26, 2016 at 08:26

      I could pretty much have written your comment <3

      I read Madame Bovary many years ago. Could probably do with a re-read. I also requested from the library that other book about planning in your 20s that you recommended!

  • Reply L August 26, 2016 at 04:09

    We’ve had some minor issues lately that showed me that we really have no foundation for handling cases where we both are really attached to one particular side and don’t naturally come to the same conclusion. For the most part, one person had previously cared more than the other and so the other person who cared less about the issue would often give in. I found a marriage workshop that my therapist recommended and we are going to that in October, which I’m curious about and he’s willing to go along with as an idea. It’s pretty conveniently located to us and my work benefits cover it 100%, which is an added bonus.

    Another thing that I realized was that I wasn’t entirely happy with our housing as it was, to the point that we were going to open houses for bigger places. Instead, we have eliminated hundreds of items out of our apartment and hired a designer to help refurnish the living room together. We don’t have the results of the designer’s work yet, but decluttering and going on a more minimalism binge has done wonders to our happiness separately and together and also regained our sex life.

  • Reply Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank August 28, 2016 at 02:29

    Ugh. That was a good set of realization. In relationship, we just have to let the experience teach us whatever it has to because it is for our benefit to make the relationship last and work.

  • Reply Jessie's Money August 29, 2016 at 10:17

    This is really awesome advice. My husband and I have been married just five years, I’m not sure we’ve had any major crisis yet, but some of what you wrote really resonated.

  • Reply Dividends Down Under September 1, 2016 at 18:05

    ‘Don’t set yourself on fire’ is a great phrase and is applicable to ALL relationships. Not just spouse, but family, friends work – everyone. Not my circus not my monkeys 🙂


  • Reply Lila September 1, 2016 at 22:08

    That we have different life and financial goals. That I can’t be the only one that is motivated to help our finances. :-/

  • Reply raluca September 6, 2016 at 02:36

    Yes to all of the above. The bad part is that marriage cannot be taught, it can only be experienced.

    If I ever have a daughter, I wonder what could I tell her? That there will be a crisis and then another one and then two more and then The BIG one, and then The even bigger one and you end up looking at the guy and ask yourself: is this really all there is?

    And some marriage survive this breaking point and become better for it, because you know there is a breaking point lurking underneath and we must never, ever, ever put ourselves in the situation to reach it again. So you do the preventive work and life becomes bearable again. But you never forget that moment when you almost chucked it all away.

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