Magical Thinking During a Marital Crisis


Remember "Step on a crack and break your mother's back."? This childhood game represented the magical thinking of a child. A child exaggerates their impact on the world, in this case his or her mother's health.
During a marital crisis, you can also be susceptible to magical thinking. In this case, the magical thinking is driven by a desperate desire to end the pain of the crisis in your relationship. You say if I do ______ , then I will restore my relationship with my spouse. Examples are:

  • If I am unconditionally loving, he will draw close to me once again.

  • If she sees what it is like to have to pay her own way, then she will end this separation.

  • If I take every opportunity to show my love, then he will know that nobody will love him the way that I love him.

  • If she realizes that I will fight her for custody of the children, then she will end her affair once and for all.

If your partner is ambivalent about his or her commitment to the marriage, it is highly unlikely that any effort on your part will end the ambivalence. Threats can actually create more motivation to survive apart from you. Efforts to show love without expecting to receive love in return can diminish you in your partner's eyes. You appear to be throwing yourself at your partner without regard to your self-worth.

Ann Landers, the popular advice columnist used the expression, "Wake up and smell the coffee." to suggest that the reader needed to come to grips with the reality of the situation. Magical thinking results from your struggle to accept how serious the crisis in your relationship is.

Be gentle with yourself, but accept that there is no easy, quick solution to a marriage crisis. Understand that the crisis is not an emergency and that time is necessary to encourage good decision making. Give yourself the gift of time so that you can more completely absorb the reality of the distance between you and your partner.

For further inquiries:

Check out Lee Horton, Ph.D., Psychologist, at

Phone: (901) 818- 5450