Despite the myth of meeting “the one” and then living happily ever after, relationships (and especially marriage relationships) take work.
The problem is that most of us don’t come equipped with the knowledge, tools, and strategies needed to succeed. That’s where marriage counseling comes in.
Here are a few warning signs that you should consider therapy:
You Feel Things Would Be Better If He/She Would Just Change
In many cases, one or both of the partners believes that the primary problem is their partner. In other words, “if he/she would just change, everything would be fine.” Well…bad news. A marriage is a dynamic system. Both partners are co-creating the good and the bad. And, both will likely need to do some things differently in order to create the marriage that both partners really want. A professional marriage therapist can greatly help you understand how YOU can make changes that will lead to a more harmonious relationship.
You Know What’s Wrong…You Just Don’t Know How To Fix It
Sometimes a couple might be clear on why they’re having issues. However, “knowing” is only half the battle. If that’s the case, it’s the perfect time to get a skilled, professional third party involved. Often, a few sessions will help get you “unstuck” and moving toward resolution.
You’re Not Talking
Most relationship challenges boil down to being challenges in communication. A good marriage counselor can help you understand where the communication breakdowns are occurring, why they’re occurring, and most importantly, new and better ways of communicating with each other.
Once communication has deteriorated to this point, often it is hard to get it going back in the right direction without professional help and it’s urgent that you get it.
You’re Talking, But It Typically Goes Down A Negative Road
Negative communication is anything that leaves one or both partners feeling depressed, angry, insecure, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation.
And, while a dialogue might start with the best of intentions, often the underlying issues (that could be helped by counseling) crop up and lead to a breakdown in communication. And, once communication has deteriorated, it is often hard to get it going back in the right direction.
You Have Nothing To Talk About Except The Kids
It’s not uncommon for busy parents to lose connection as their kids become more of the focus. And, sometimes it can feel like you’re “out of practice” when it comes to being a couple. This can often cause panic in some couples who feel that they’ve grown apart. A good therapist will be able to help you bridge the gap and start “re-learning” how to be a happy, connected couple in your own right, beyond the scope of just being co-parents.
You’re Bickering A Lot
Everybody has specific triggers. In other words, these are behaviors your partner does that wouldn’t necessarily both most people, but for some reason just tend to drive you crazy. Generally, your partner won’t understand why these fights are happening and what they can do about it. A good therapist can help you work through these issues and figure out the root of the issue and how you can move through it.
You Feel Contempt Toward Your Partner
Perhaps you feel under-appreciated. Perhaps you feel your partner isn’t pulling their weight. Whatever the cause, if you’re feeling contempt toward your spouse, it’s a sign that counseling is likely needed. It’s even more important if you’re outwardly showing contempt directly to them or to your kids.
You Go To Bed Angry
This is pretty simple. If you tend to go to bed angry with your spouse frequently, it’s a big warning sign.
You Feel Resentment
It’s possible that resentment about a past event or behavior can linger beyond when one side says they have “forgiven and forgotten” about it. It’s important to see this inner resentment (or the feeling of resentment from your partner) as a big red flag. Unless the issue is dealt with properly, resentment tends to slowly build and build…until they ultimately break the relationship.
You’re Having (Or Contemplating) An Affair
Obviously having an affair is a sign of a major issue. However, it’s not necessarily a death sentence for the relationship. That said, if the marriage is to be saved, it’s essential that you seek professional help.
Often the act of fantasizing or contemplating an affair can be a major signal that you’re not getting what you want and need or that you want something different.
Your Sex Life Has Had Major Changes
While it’s common for sex to taper off a bit in most long-term relationships, if there is a significant drop in the amount (or quality) of sex, it’s often a sign that something might not be right in the relationship.
You Don’t Feel Attracted To Your Partner
Beyond sex, if you no longer feel attracted to your partner, it’s a red flag. The lack of attraction often means you’re not getting your needs met or that there is underlying anger or resentment that should be flushed out. It IS possible to regain attraction for your spouse.
You’re Living Separate Lives
When couples become more like roommates or just seem to be occupying the same space, it’s often a sign of trouble. That doesn’t mean couples should be together every minute of every day, but there is also a major difference between a couple who has uplifting conversation, quality communication, and intimacy versus a couple who is married “on paper” but not actually sharing their lives.
Your Parenting Philosophies Don’t Match
This is one of those “sneaky” subjects that doesn’t seem like much at first, but it can lead to anger and resentment over time. If you and your partner can’t seem to agree on how to raise your kids, it’s wise to get professional help.
Your Financial Philosophies Don’t Match
Money is one of the biggest areas of discord in marriages. Sometimes one partner is a spender while the other is a saver. Or, perhaps it’s an issue of planning and lifestyle. Whatever the issue, professional counseling can help get to the “root” issue so that the very important issue of your financial future is mutually agreed upon.
You’re Have An Ongoing “Big” Issue
I’ve mentioned many issues (like parenting, finance, etc), but all relationships are different and can run into different “sticking points” along the way. Perhaps it’s religion, or the in-laws, or career paths, etc. Sometimes these issues can feel impossible to navigate, but with help, they can more than likely be worked out and an agreeable resolution can be found.
You Feel The Only Reason To Stay Together Is For The Children
If the main reason for staying together is “for the children” it’s nearly always wise to involve an objective third party. If the only reason to stay together is for the (admittedly well-intentioned) benefit of the children, it rarely works. Children are generally very intelligent and intuitive and can typically see through their parents’ motivations. Plus, it typically leads to acting out or other issues.
A better approach, if you genuinely want what is best for your children, working to resolve your issues and move toward a positive relationship is ideal. Plus, your children are likely to unconsciously model your behavior in their future relationships, so be very conscious of the example you want to set for them.
You Feel Like Separation Is The Only Option
Sometimes a break is helpful when a couple is in major disagreement. However, if this short “time out” leads to overnight stays away from home or even a temporary separation, then counseling is almost certainly needed. Time apart, on its own, does not typically solve the issue that led you there. And, reinforcing that time apart is helpful tends to lead to further avoidance and more separation down the line. It’s best to tackle the issues head-on.
You Love Your Partner, But Something Is Just Missing
Sometimes things are just “off” and you can’t totally put a finger on it. You love your partner. You know they’re a good person who is doing their best. But, you just don’t feel connected or close. Rather than “settling” for an “ok” marriage, it would be wise to seek help from a quality therapist.
These are just some of the reasons to seek couples therapy. It’s important to remember that couples counseling is truly an opportunity for couples to forge great and lasting marriages. Entering couples counseling does not necessarily mean that your relationship is “in trouble”. Many couples are looking to do some proactive work, to deal with one sticky issue, or because they do understand that any long lasting relationship is going to benefit from some work that is dedicated to that relationship.
If you have questions or would like more information about couples counseling, contact my office at Amanda.Itzkoff@gmail.com.
To schedule an appointment, call our offices at 917-609-4990.
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff