Send Network Blog

What to do When Your Wife is Burned Out: Warning Signs

Kathy Ferguson Litton09.20.18

In a previous blog, “How to plant your church without losing your spouse,” I offer a most basic suggestion to husbands regarding their wives: “Listen, watch and lean into, lead and love her well. Don’t miss warning signs that say she is not flourishing. Your attentiveness is critical.” Simply put: The best advice regarding burnout is to pay attention, as your spouse may be showing signs of burnout.

Burnout rarely happens suddenly; it tends to creep up on us slowly. Often it happens when too many demands have been placed on us. Or in a more self-induced way where we have said “Yes” far too many times and now find ourselves drowning in an avalanche of multiple responsibilities.

This is well-worn imagery but, like warning lights on a dashboard, your wife may begin to send signals she is floundering, fraying, and on the road to burn out.

The simplest definition of burn out is when one becomes simultaneously depleted emotionally, spiritually, and physically. It can be a slow on ramp with warning signs, growing into a crescendo of an emotional, spiritual, or physical crash landing. Our bodies, our souls, and our minds will put up red flags — noticeable ones.

If you see consistent signs of increasing cynicism, ongoing overwhelming fatigue issues, and your wife just isn’t laughing anymore, you should take an emotional, spiritual and physical inventory.

Do you see these warning lights?

Signs of burn out:

  • She lacks enthusiasm and energy for tasks and projects she once found engaging and exciting.
  • She is withdrawn and isolated from people and events.
  • She is lonely.
  • She’s lost her joy.
  • She is brittle.
  • She is growing increasingly cynical.
  • She is battling physical fatigue that sleep won’t remedy.
  • She seems to have growing Irritation, cynicism, and pessimism.
  • She is experiencing stress-related illness, such as migraines or digestive distress.
  • She displays spiritual distance, a cooled relationship with God, or lack of desire to pray or read Scripture.

If you see these signs what do you do? Obviously, this is more complicated than assessing a minor illness. Your wife may or may not recognize these signs in herself — which, quite honestly, dictates how you might approach her with any concerns.

If in reading this list, you truly see these features manifesting themselves consistently in your wife, I suggest you have a loving, caring conversation with her. You may discover she already is aware of a struggle and hasn’t been able to identify it or articulate it to you. Your concern, your noticing, and your leadership in this situation will mean so much.

I had a season of serious burnout in my early 40s in the midst of a demanding, yet vibrant season of ministry, as result of a self-induced overload. My husband Rick stepped into it with great love and leadership — and I desperately needed him to do that. He helped me make necessary changes and, in fact, he initiated them. In the coming weeks and months, I got stronger again and much wiser about my capacity and my responsibilities.

You truly can make huge difference with your love and leadership, as you seek to find care and solutions for her burn out. It will make you both stronger.

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