In a previous post I explained a bit about couples therapy and how doing an occasional check-up on the health of a serious relationship is always a good idea. But do things change when you’ve taken the plunge and gotten married?
When you’re married, you’ve made the commitment, sometimes you’re years in, thinking you’ve seen all there is to see. Some of your fights are older than your children, but there are always new surprises and challenges even in the longest relationship.
So how do you know when it’s time to seek professional help? We’re happy to explain.
Why Try Marriage Counseling?
Most people turn to counseling when they simply can’t stand it any longer and they think they want out. But the truth is any time is a good time to seek counseling – even if you don’t have any major problems. The benefit of counseling is that it creates an active, ongoing, healthy conversation between partners, which can prevent major problems from ever arising.
There is never a wrong time for marriage counseling, and it is never too early to start.
If you are thinking about marriage counseling at all, it is a sign that you are probably already closer to needing some relationship guidance than you think.
It’s totally normal to seek counseling. Many people think it is a sign of weakness in their relationship to begin counseling — but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Choosing to participate in counseling together is a sign that your relationship is stronger than you think, because it shows that both of you care enough to put time and effort into repairing the cracks and building a stronger foundation.
You go to the gym to work out your muscles, keep your body healthy, and increase your lifespan. Marriage counseling is like a work out for your relationship. It can simply be a means of improving the quality and longevity of your love — at any stage of your relationship.
Marriage Counseling Identifies and Resolves Relationship Problems
Worried about your current relationship? Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint just what is bothering you (and other times there’s an entire grocery list). There are some common signs that indicate marriage counseling might be helpful in preventing a breakdown. See if these sound familiar:
- Not Talking – When you’re always busy you may not have the energy for drawn out conversations. But when you share a life with someone there’s tons of discussion that needs to take place to ensure everyone’s content and comfortable. If you and your partner are hardly speaking, or worse, giving the silent treatment, a therapist can help re-open that dialogue.
- Lack of Affection – No one stays in the honeymoon phase forever, but little reminders that you are loved go a long way. If your partner no longer says hello or goodbye, or neglects hugs and kisses, this may be a sign of distance. Sometimes marriages come to feel like co-existence with a roommate, and chances are you’re hoping for more than that.
- Increased or Unhealthy Fighting – Fighting can actually be good for a relationship. Some of the deepest concerns and best resolutions come up during fights. But fighting over small, inconsequential things, or fighting “dirty” is just hurtful. Fights should work toward a resolution and consist of discussion, never yelling or insults.
- Drastic Change in Sex Life – We’re not teenagers forever and sex is bound to decrease somewhat as responsibilities pile up. But if sex has suddenly dropped off and there seems to be a lack of interest it’s good to find out what might be the cause. Likewise, if sex has suddenly become constant that may also be a sign of unexpected change worth discussing (in some situations this behavior can be a sign of guilt).
These problems can be difficult for a couple to resolve on their own. It requires a high-level of communication to resolve problems like this and some couples can’t do it on their own.
This is commonly due to a lack of “active listening” — that means giving full attention to what the other person is saying without judgment or planning what you will say next.
When you fully hear what is being said without attaching feelings to it, you stand a much better chance of actually resolving the issue. Counseling can help you find a level playing field where both of you can both hear and talk to one another — helping you identify and resolve your problems faster and more effectively.
Marriage Counseling Can Help Jump Start a Relationship
In a marriage, it can be hard to recognize when routine becomes a problem.
We get comfortable and we know there’s love there, but we choose not to be concerned. We stop putting in as much time and energy into our emotional connection as we did during the early days of the relationship.
You can describe it as “losing the spark” or “getting stuck in a rut.” This isn’t necessarily a problem, but it could be a sign that problems are on the way.
Emotional health is much like physical health. It requires a check-up from time to time. You need to evaluate and assess your emotions (as well as your partner’s) so you can see where you are and where you’re headed. This proactive approach can help you stop marriage issues before they start.
During marriage counseling, you can gauge your levels of intimacy and see if there are any ways you can increase your connection.
Many couples worry about lack of intimacy, but don’t realize there is more than one type of intimacy:
- Physical Intimacy – This type of intimacy relates not only to sex, but to simple touching. Holding hands, hugging, laying together on the couch or in bed are all part of this.
- Emotional Intimacy – This relates to showing love in all kinds of ways. For instance: spending quality time, discussing your relationship and plans, and being kind and considerate.
Of course very few people have an actual Hollywood romance (and most of them aren’t what they appear to be anyway) and no one is likely to have every positive trait possible in their relationship. What matters is that both partners are happy and the relationship is sustainable.
That means that neither is doing more than they can handle, and expectations are fair on both sides. After all, the most important part of a relationship is teamwork. You should never see your partner as an antagonist or an enemy, but if you do, it’s not too late to make a change.
Marriage Counseling Can Help You Decide How to Move Forward
Counseling can go a long way toward fixing problems that seem impossible. It can also help identify whether a relationship just seems unhealthy and can be repaired, or whether it truly is unhealthy and needs to end. Both outcomes are incredibly valuable, and you may know from experience, such a decision can be difficult to come to on your own.
Aside from experience and training, the most helpful thing about having a counselor present is that they are neutral. There is no emotion or hurt or siding with anyone from a therapist, and they can help you view the problem from a rational perspective.
My counselors and I at Loving Life will take the time to listen to and learn about your situation before you come in, so that you can feel comfortable knowing that we understand your concern. Our goal is to create a working plan to bring balance and happiness back into your relationship, and therefore into your life at home.
There’s no need to struggle alone.
And, we can teach you the skills to avoid future problems from ever starting. Call our office or schedule an appointment at Loving Life Therapy to speak with our team, and start on your way to love, health and happiness.
If you are interested in learning more about couple’s counseling and finding out if it is right for you, please download our free informational packet.