7 Signs It's Time to Seek Marriage Counseling
The world loves to be romanticized – and we love to romanticize it.
No wonder we're surrounded by all these compelling phrases like "the one", "soulmate", and "happily ever after". But in real life, love and marriage are not all romance, candlelight dinners, and walks on the beach. They take work. A lot of work. All couples experience highs and lows, whether they just got engaged or celebrating their golden anniversary. But sometimes, they need help from a professional to guide them. If you and your spouse are experiencing marital challenges, how do you know it's time to seek marriage counseling? That's our topic for the day.
When to seek marriage counseling
Right off the bat, it's essential that not all married couples who go to see a therapist are on the verge of splitting up. Likewise, therapy does not mean that either of you has failed. After all, the vows one makes to their spouse tend to look slightly different in the everyday practice of marriage. However, therapy can be a lifeline for those who feel that their relationship is sinking.
So, how do you know it's time to see a couple's therapist?
Here are some signs.
1 Lack of openness
Sometimes, people feel distant or at odds with each other, eventually making them avoid talking about important things. Other times, they lie about something they believe their partner would disagree with or hold against them. However, keeping secrets from one another can spell doom to a marriage. So, if you struggle with opening up and sharing with your spouse or notice a continuing lack of the will to trust your spouse with your most infinite affairs, there's your sign right there. All relationships thrive on trust and honesty. So, seeking the services of a relationship therapist might be your best bet to make it work.
2 Negative dialogue
All couples argue. Whether it's about money issues, kids, or too much time spent at work/with friends. It only becomes a problem when the same issues arise again and again within partnerships, and the two don't know how to communicate healthily. Talking to your partner with shame, blame, or criticism or repeating toxic patterns such as shouting, stonewalling, or passive-aggressiveness tends to overshadow everything good in the relationship. In these scenarios, we don't focus on our spouse's reality but on making the best possible – or most defended expression of ourselves. If you've noticed that you and your spouse got stuck in these unhealthy and destructive communication methods, it's time to seek professional help with your marriage. Therapy allows a safe place to start practicing healthy communication and learning how to listen to your partner's words.
3 Radio silence
Lack of affection doesn't necessarily have to imply negative or hostile feelings. It can also reflect a lack of feeling. Basically, not much is said. Your conversations remain on the surface level. You or your partner may not care if the other is upset. You may not even want to hurt them. Your spouse's words and actions no longer affect you. Indifference can be one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome. However, if you're willing to put in the work and identify the source of your indifference, therapy can help.
4 "My antagonist spouse"
You and your partner feel more like adversaries than a team. It's you vs. them. There's yours, and there is theirs. Your marriage no longer feels like a marriage. For example, your Arkansas home no longer feels like a home but a battle ring, and looking for long-distance movers who will take you far away from it doesn't seem like a bad idea. While you can get in touch with experts, call it quits, and start anew somewhere else, think hard one last time whether your relationship may be worth saving.
5 Poor sexual relationship
Physical intimacy is what ultimately separates friendships from relationships. And although an essential element of a solid and healthy marriage is being "best friends forever", intimacy is vital to maintaining closeness. All couples face the challenge of "keeping the fire burning". Also, there are many reasons why a marriage can lack intimacy; mostly, it's due to one spouse not feeling emotionally secure and close to their partner. However, not addressing the elephant in the room can only enhance the feeling of "growing distant".
Fantasizing about an affair, or having one, is a red flag and definitely a sign it's time to seek marriage counseling. Infidelity is undoubtedly one of the most challenging hurdles a couple can face. Why? It's a definite violation of trust, sending a non-ambiguous message to our partner: "You are not enough." However, infidelity is only a byproduct of marriage intimacy gone wrong; people usually cheat out of marital loneliness. Not feeling heard or seen by our partner can significantly impact our self-esteem. We're only human. We make mistakes. We search for other sources of love, affection, and praise. "I want you to want me." – it all comes down to this, really.
7 Separate lives
Co-existing is not what marriage is about. If we're more on the roommate side, this could indicate an urgent need for professional counseling. Needless to say, "together forever" shouldn't be taken literally. Having autonomy in marriage is important. Individual freedom is just as important. However, if we're leading completely separate lives, and there is an evident lack of intimacy and open communication, it's definitely time to visit a marriage counselor.
Ready to book a session? More often than not, couples therapy has been a fruitful endeavor during hard times. And, for you, too, it can be a fantastic resource and much-needed guidance that strengthens and repairs your commitments to one another.
All in all, seeking marriage counseling can be a sign that you love each other deeply. It could be a sign that, despite your disagreements, you feel profound respect for what you've built, and you want to save your marriage. Remember, fairytale or not, couples willing to put in the work have the best chances of getting their happy ending.
This is a guest post written for Dr. Jordan Harris.
Dr. Jordan Harris is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists with over 10 years of experience. He's worked in various fields from addictions, to kids, to psychiatric wards. Currently his clinical specialty is working with couples and marriages.
You can get his FREE e-book from Conflict to Connection below.