Marriage Crisis

Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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Your Quick Guide to Relationship Success
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It's amazing how many different things can cause a marriage crisis. For example, did you know that even the joyous event of having a baby causes trouble in many marriages? In fact, pregnancy is ranked 12th on the list of most stressful life events, so it's easy to see how this might cause a significant challenge in your marriage or relationship.

Steven M Cohn, PhD, LMFT
The Portland Couples Counseling Center
1940 NE Broadway
Portland, Oregon  97232

Couple arguing

Comedienne Nora Ephron even talks about it in her novel, Heartburn: "When you have a baby, you set off an explosion in your marriage, and when the dust settles, your marriage is different from what it was. Not better, necessarily; not worse, necessarily; but different." Numerous journal articles have detailed this phenomenon.(1), (2), (3).

Various other factors, none nearly as happy as bringing a baby home, can also cause a serious challenge to your marriage. Sometimes it is difficult for one partner to understand why a shared event causes such a concern to the other partner. For example, if both partners experience the loss of the family home due to foreclosure, one may think it is the end of the world, while the other thinks it is no big deal as they can move in with relatives. This conflict between the individual perceptions related to shared events can cause a marriage crisis.

Often, the way the stressful event is handled by each partner contributes more to the marriage crisis than the actual event itself. It’s not unusual for one partner to think the other partner has literally gone crazy. Stress can make a person behave in ways that he or she normally wouldn't act. The normal rules don't seem to apply, causing the relationship to break down.

In other situations, the shared event provokes stress for both partners, making it even harder to avoid marriage difficulties. When both partners begin disregarding the normal rules for interpersonal interaction, the world loses its sense of predictability and stability. Life becomes a frightening experience, causing most people to withdraw from their normal sources of support. Each partner becomes isolated at just the time when they need each other the most.

Whether you ultimately decide to work on the marriage or to separate or divorce, a Relationship Specialist can be extremely valuable. A counselor acts as sort of a middle-man, bringing both partners back to a more reasonable perception of the stressful event. Counseling also assists each partner to understand the reaction of the other partner. When this happens, it is easier to make a reasoned decision as to whether to keep working on the marriage or to begin the process of divorce.

It is vital that you seek relationship counseling when needed because the stress associated with a marriage crisis can cause actual physical illness. In fact, some studies have even associated marriage crisis with increased death rate.(4) Regardless of whether or not you choose to stay together; the mere fact that you are undergoing stress related to your marriage crisis can cause health concerns and should be treated accordingly.


(1)Aalmela-Aro, K.; Nurmi, J.; Saisto, T.; and Halmesmaeki, E. (2000). "Women's and Men's Personal Goals During the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Family Psychology 14:171 - 186.

(2)Pancer, S.; Pratt, M.; Hunsberger, B.; and Gallant, M. (2000). "Thinking Ahead: Complexity of Expectations and the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Personality 68:253 - 280.

(3)Cox, M.; Paley, B.; Burchinal, M.: and Payne, C. (1999). "Marital Perceptions and Interactions Across the Transition to Parenthood." Journal of Marriage and the Family 6:611 - 625.

(4)Gardner, Jonathan; and Oswald, Andrew. (2004) "How is mortality affected by money, marriage, and stress?" Journal of Health Economics 23 (6): 1181 - 1207.

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Steven M Cohn, PhD, MBA, LMFT has twice been named one of the top three marriage counselors in Portland, Oregon by the non-profit organization Three Best Rated

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