We have all heard of the roadblocks which hamper or destroy a marriage. Those three roadblocks of marital heartbreak are communication, finances, and sex. As a parent, there is another challenge that is missing on this list. Parenting a teen or young adult in crisis can also cause marital distress.
Unfortunately, parenting woes do not offer road maps to figure out where to go and what to do. What parents do agree on is the fact that raising a child in crisis is one of the most stressful jobs ever. Of course, we must add to this the marital drama, pitfalls, accusations, silent treatment, and eventually a distance so wide, love in the marriage has taken a big detour.
Let’s just say it… A child in crisis wreaks havoc on a marriage. All focus and attention are on the hurting and wayward child. Unfortunately, parents lose themselves in the upheaval or create new problems for themselves. When the difficulties are too much in the marriage, a repair is not enough to get back on the right track. Instead, an overhaul is needed.
Why are marriages with troubled children falling apart?
- Parents pick sides over the child in question – One parent supports, one parent does not.
- Parents are in denial that there is a problem – No, our child would never do that!
- A parent enables their child and therefore produces problems.
- A parent struggles with what is best for their child – One parent wants to be proactive, the other is not.
- Parents blame each other for their son or daughter’s issues – Rather than take ownership of the problem, they would rather blame the other for either doing something or doing nothing.
- Their child’s crises have affected their finances – Financial stress can cause many marriages to fail. Again, a leading cause of divorce.
- Parents have lost their homes, vehicles, and jobs over their child in crisis – The loss is so enormous, it can be the breaking point of a marriage and even the family.
- Parents cannot handle each other’s mental state or choices due to the child in crisis – Often, the stress and pain from their child’s issues can lead a parent into a crisis themselves – depression, an addiction, an affair, or even leaving.
- A parent is so stressed from the repeated crises with their child that intimacy with their spouse suffers.
Unless God is at the wheel, a troubled marriage will run right into a ditch. To keep this from happening, you must work as a team. For example, if you try to drive a car with only three wheels, an accident will surely come. Why? When you look at an engineer’s design for the car to be balanced and driveable, it requires all four tires. If one is missing or flat, this will place unequal pressure on the healthy tires and weaken them. Therefore, it is not only undrivable, but it is also dangerous. Hence, this is no different in a marriage.
So how do parents work together without killing each other or leaving each other?
Prayer! One of the easiest things to do is one of the hardest that parents should do. Praying with each other is imperative. Making God your priority and bringing your problems to the throne of God is the first step. By doing so, pride falls to the floor, and humbleness abounds. Prayer opens the doors and windows of heaven to communicate with God and hear what He has to say in the matter. By not following through with prayer is a great disservice to your spouse and your child.
Get help! Counseling is NOT taboo. Counseling is NOT demeaning. Counseling is a God-send. Counseling releases the heaviness that parents and spouses feel in a crisis. Parents often think their child is the one that needs counseling. Not so! Parents have needs too. Counseling and therapy are there to help heal a broken family that includes marriage. They are there to encourage, rebuild, set boundaries and rekindle what was lost, as well as lay the burden of a child in crisis to someone else. This someone else is also the one who has the experience and knowledge to handle your son or daughter’s issues.
By doing so, the professional counselor or mental health expert can implement the exact plan in place for your child. This plan includes a type of therapy, resources that will support you, and what will be required by both of you as parents.
Get Support! You thought you were the only parent who has problems with your child? Today, there are thousands of support groups for parents just like you who have teens and young adults in crisis. You will find out quickly that you are not alone.
Rekindle what was lost. When life gets in the way, your child is in crisis, and everything around you falls apart; remember, there is someone else who feels the same way – the other parent. Both of you are consumed by your child in crisis to the point of losing who you are. Not just individually, but as a married couple too. Long gone are the days of dates, romance, and connection. The marriage is not doomed. Look at it as being on a hiatus because of your child in crisis. Well, the hiatus is over once the proper plan is in place – prayer, counseling, and support. Time for renewal and rekindling of what brought you together is your new plan as a married couple. Feelings of awkwardness and nervousness may rise or just exciting to be together with no drama or interruptions.
So, where do we start?
- How about a walk in the park
- Stop for breakfast and coffee to get the day started on a good positive note
- Get a family member, mentor, and friend to spend the day with your teen/young adult while you take a fun day trip. There are plenty of low-cost, entertaining things to do – e.g. mini-golf, a day at the beach, hiking, movies, have a dessert night, and hit your local ice cream place.
- Plan short-term and long-term goals; for yourself and together as husband and wife. Working on a goal together makes it more rewarding.
- Pick one thing for each of you that you can enjoy. Have plenty of options. The object is to bring you closer.
I know for some parents, their child’s behavior and issues go beyond what they can handle. Counseling is not always an option due to the child’s age (young adult) or defiance such as refusal. There comes a time to which you as the parent must release your child to God fully and work on your marriage to make sure it stays intact. It will take time, healing, new boundaries, new goals, and a new desire to refresh a marriage. However, if you keep moving forward and do not give up, you will find a new way to encourage growth in a once doomed and broken down marriage.
To the other parents who have struggled so much that it has separated their marriage….there is nothing impossible to God. When you give your whole heart to the Lord in obedience and trust in Him to do what is necessary, you have won half the battle. If your spouse has given up, God has not. He will be to you in what you need. Work on yourself with counseling, fellowship with friends and family, and time with God in prayer and the Word. I promise you will not be alone on the journey.