Family crises are psychological difficulties that arise at different stages of family life. Just like age crises, family crises are natural to the development of relationships between family members and arise when the need to change the system of relationships has matured because the family can no longer interact in the same way as before. Different people need different amounts of time to successfully adapt to the new conditions, some couples successfully go through a crisis in a short time, others need more time to realize the accumulated problems and to start solving them, rebuilding the family system. Also the intensity of the family crisis may vary depending on the stress factor, people’s temperament, their mental stability, emotional intelligence, individual characteristics. Household and financial conditions of family life can also influence the success of overcoming a family crisis.
If the husband and wife understand what is going on, see the reasons for growing tension and are jointly looking for ways out, their common interests, the family can pass all the crisis moments rather smoothly. It also happens that family members do not realize the problem to the end or treat the situation differently, so they cannot change the way of interaction to a more effective one and overcome the crisis on their own. In such cases, the consequences for the family system can be severe – it is a divorce or complete emotional distancing.
Types of family crises
There are several classifications of family life crises by the criterion of normativity and by the time interval of people being together.
Normative crises reflect situations that are most typical for most families. These are several key stages in the cycle of relationship development:
- Pregnancy and the arrival of the firstborn. The main task at this stage is to redistribute responsibilities and change the family structure, where roles from egoistic to altruistic (adults begin to meet the needs of the child).
- The child’s mastering of communication, building relations with the environment. The child’s age crises directly affect the entire family, since it is not only the child’s need to learn new knowledge and adapt, the parents play an active role as an intermediary between the outside world and the family world.
- The child’s adolescence, which usually coincides with the parents’ mid-life crisis, creates an emotionally unstable situation in the family. Everyone is reviewing his or her life and feels the need for change, which changes the formerly established pattern of relationships.
- The child’s independence and independence leads to separate living arrangements, the appearance of new family members (son-in-law, daughter-in-law). At this stage, not only intrafamily relationships are transformed, but in fact the entire family structure is transformed. With the appearance of grandchildren comes the need to adapt to the new role of grandparents, as well as an awareness of the expansion of the family.
- Physiological changes in the sexual sphere of the spouses (menopause in women, decreased libido in men). A qualitative change in the relationship and the need to find something in common other than intimate pleasure can lead both to the breakup of the relationship and to the discovery of new facets of the spouse and the renewal of feelings.
- The death of one spouse completely changes the picture of the world that has been established for years and requires a lot of resources to deal with the crisis. In such cases, serious emotional support from other family members is needed.
These stages are typical for any family in one sequence or another, as well as with some adjustments. At any of them there are difficulties, as it takes strength to accept the situation, to reallocate resources, to reconsider one’s own role in the family system, and there is also anxiety for each family member. When people are prepared for such events, they can reduce negative experiences through direct dialogue or by making a favorable plan in advance. And even with the best possible preparation, problems can arise.
Non-normal crises do not happen to everyone, come suddenly, and may not depend on the efforts and actions of the spouses. Socio-economic factors, such as the financial collapse of the entire state system, wars, armed conflicts, and housing problems put psychological pressure on the family, leading to a crisis. Unfavorable relationships with the people around them (for example, emigrant families), difficulties in finding a job add to domestic problems, increase the level of psychological stress and reduce the amount of resource.
There are 2 main groups of non-normative crises:
- Acute – these are sudden situations, but very strong for the emotional-psychological sphere. This includes the death of one of the spouses, adultery, any sudden change in social status (imprisonment, bankruptcy, etc.).
- Chronic – prolonged influence of irritants of moderate force. Arise at excessive and long loading (physical and psychological), housing problems, the protracted conflict between relatives. Any manifestation of domestic violence (physical, economic, sexual) also belongs to chronic crises. Change of residence and acceptance of elderly parents or adopted children in the family can become a non-normative longterm crisis if at least one participant of interaction has reduced adaptive abilities.
The more crisis situations overlap, the harder it is for the family to find a way out. For example, simple bankruptcy is quite surmountable, but if it coincided with the appearance of the firstborn and the cheating spouse, the person may not be able to cope without support from outside.
Family life crises by year
The prediction of a family crisis by year is quite conditional, so more attention should be paid to the individual situation than to the formal framework.
- The crisis of the first year arises from the fact that it is necessary to establish a common life, to compare the smallest habits. It is typical for those couples who are just starting to live together. Those who decided to legalize their relationship after several years of living together do not experience the crisis of the first year – they are already past it.
- The crisis of a relationship of 3 years is the most often noticed, because by this time the falling in love ends and reality begins. As a rule, in this period there are already children, a large number of domestic and financial problems are accumulated. Statistically, most divorces occur during this period. The desire of both to preserve the relationship and the understanding that soon it will become easier helps to cope with this crisis.
- The crisis of 7 years is characterized by psychological fatigue of the partners from each other. This is the period when it is boring for both of them, and apart it is not interesting. There is no romance for a long time, nor is there any sexual attraction. Very often it coincides with a mid-life crisis. To successfully overcome this crisis, the couple’s desire to solve problems together and to develop their relationship saves them.
If the family system does not change, and none of the spouses do not want these changes, then there will not be a crisis tied to a particular year. When pregnancy comes, a child arrives, job or place of residence changes, the previous relationship becomes irrelevant due to the change in situation, frustration of one or both spouses, then acute situations can arise much more often.
A great influence on the relationship in a couple have a non-normative crises that occur after 4 years, and after 20 years of life together, regardless of the generally accepted chronology.
How to overcome a family crisis?
In order to smooth out the conflicting moments and get out of the crisis without losses, it is necessary to adhere to the following recommendations:
- Show flexibility, understanding and the ability to listen (this will reduce the frequency of conflict);
- remain open to the world around you (this is a source of inspiration and new opportunities, strength and resources);
- Work on family cohesion (joint recreation, maintaining traditions, small but constant signs of attention);
- reconsider your expectations of your partner (they are often inadequately high);
- talk about their negative and positive emotions frankly, but in a gentle way, without insults and claims;
- together discuss the cause of the crisis and look for ways to solve it – ways to adapt to the new conditions and restructure the family system.
If, despite all of these efforts, you cannot cope with the problem on your own, you can seek consultation with a family psychologist. Specialists at Ember have helped dozens of couples successfully overcome family crises and keep their families together. A psychologist helps to understand the feelings of all family members, to see inside yourself the frustration, if there is one, to take responsibility for the situation and begin to look for a way out.
If the couple decide to separate, family psychologist will give advice on how to make it as painless as possible not only for themselves but also for other family members, especially for children who may be hard going through a parent’s divorce. It is important for the specialist to take into account the desires and needs of each family member, and an individual approach guarantees a quality result of psychological counseling.
Also read an interview about family crises with the psychologist of our center Irina Prokhorova.
How to get out of a crisis of the family relationship: looking for ways to overcome
Relationship crises are an integral part of family life. Moreover, they occur not only at the beginning, at the time of adjustment, but even after a couple of decades.
And each time accompanied by a storm of negative emotions, boredom, ignoring the partner and the desire to leave. Is it really that bad?
No. Crises can be dealt with. To do so, you need to follow simple but effective advice.
Is it necessary to fight it at all?
The answer will be affirmative if the spouses love each other and want to keep the family. For them the crisis is not a test, but just an opportunity to see and correct mistakes, strengthen relationships, to become even closer to each other.
If the reason for the marriage was not feelings, but, for example, benefit, revenge or a desire to separate from his parents, there is no point in fighting the crisis. In such situations, sooner or later it will fall apart anyway.
Advice from psychologists and practitioners
Each family is unique in its own way, and everyone can have crises in different years of life. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that the following recommendations will help absolutely everyone. But following them is still an opportunity to reduce the manifestations of the crisis and save the relationship.
So, psychologists have given some recommendations for surviving a crisis with dignity:
Remember that any crisis is an opportunity not only to grow, but also to solve problems that have been silenced for a long time.
Get to know each other again . In a crisis it often seems that there is a stranger nearby. Is that what it is? Then it’s time to remedy the situation. You can play some games that reveal personal information. Let it be, for example, “truth or dare.
Do not try to remake your partner . More often than not, spouses bring with them a pattern of behavior from their parents’ home. So, for example, a man may think that his wife, like his mother, will stay at home and devote all her time to taking care of the children and the household.
If nothing helps, and the relationship remains at a standstill, you need to seek help from a psychologist. But it is worth remembering that he will not write a prescription for a magic drug, which instantly solve any problems in the relationship. He will only help you to understand yourself and accept your partner.
What can a woman do?
The answer is simple – to apply feminine wisdom. This is the ability to support in time, to be silent when necessary, to show strength or, conversely, weakness. It is also the ability to take responsibility, to insist on his opinion or trust and give in.
It is also important to remember about appearance. Why not update the closet? Particular attention should be paid to homemade clothing. Stretched T-shirts or pajamas are unlikely to cause passion in the eyes of her husband. By the way, this advice applies to men as well.
How can a man help?
Just like the fair sex, men can support their wives. For example, a good option – to sit with the children, giving his wife the opportunity to relax for a couple of hours with friends, go to the beauty salon or just give time to hobbies.
It is important to show your wife care, love and tenderness. Women live by feelings, so it is important for them to feel their need and indispensability. Huge role is played by respect. But not only to herself, but to her interests, needs, desires and dreams.
And, of course, you should spend more time on communication. Not only to listen, but also to hear.
The difference in an official marriage and in a civil one
In general, there is no difference in the course of crises, or in ways to deal with them.
In both cases, it is important for the partners in time to recognize the onset of a difficult period, learn to communicate, accept the spouse with all the advantages and disadvantages.
But there is one “but”. In formal marriage partners feel responsibility for the family, for its preservation under any difficult circumstances. But in a civil marriage, it is the opposite.
The partners realize that there is essentially nothing holding them together, since they are simply cohabiting. And if feelings have not passed the test of a crisis, they break up without problems and go in search of a new relationship.
What shouldn’t you do?
First of all, it is worth mentioning the insults. Conversation in high tones, excessive criticism, recriminations, ignoring – all this surely will not improve the situation, but rather, on the contrary, will worsen it.
Therefore, in spite of the accumulated negative emotions, there is no need to hurt your partner. Relationships will improve, and resentments will be kept in memory for a long time.
It is also not necessary to remain silent. Lack of communication is a serious problem. Sometimes it leads to the fact that the husband or wife are looking for a companion on the side.
The intimate component of the marriage should never be forgotten. Lack of sex is the way to first fade passion, and then to find satisfaction with another person.
More information on the topic in the video:
It is possible to survive the crisis of family life, no matter how long the spouses have been married. The main thing is to be aware of its approach, to enlist the support of your partner and be ready to stay close, no matter what difficulties. It is only by working together as a team that you can strengthen your relationship.