1. When you’ve shut down talking to your spouse. In all honesty, many relationship challenges are simply challenges in communication. A therapist can help facilitate new ways to communicate with each other. Once communication has deteriorated, often it is hard to get it going back in the right direction.
2. Everything is seen through a negative filter. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling judged, shamed, disregarded, insecure or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. Negative communication also includes the tone of conversation because it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Negative communication can escalate into emotional abuse, as well as non-verbal communication.
3. Do you feel afraid to share your feelings? When it’s just too frightening to even bring issues up. This can be anything from sex to money or even annoying little habits that are being blown out of proportion. A therapist’s job is to help a couple become clear about their issues and to help them understand what they are truly talking about.
4. When affection is withheld as punishment. My client Ann’s ex-husband would get angry over small things and then withhold affection (including giving her the silent treatment). If one partner starts to act as a “parent” or “punisher,” there is a lack of balance in the relationship.
5. When you see your partner as an antagonist. You and your partner are not adversaries; you are on the same team. If it begins to feel as if you are on different sides, then it’s time to seek help.
6. When you are financially unfaithful. If one partner keeps his or her spouse in the dark about spending or needs to control everything related to money, then the other should bring up the topic of family finances. It’s not unreasonable to say, “I want to understand our monthly bills and budget better, our debt, how many savings/checking/retirement accounts we have, etc.” If your spouse objects, consult a professional to help work out the conflict.
7. When you feel everything would be OK if he would just change. The only person you can change is yourself, so if you’re waiting for him to change, you’re going to be waiting a long time. This is often when I recommend hiring a coach or therapist to better understand who you are and what you want. Then, if challenges continue to persist, reach out to a couple’s therapist to learn better tools for relating to each other.
8. When you’re living separate lives. When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean a couple is in trouble just because they don’t do everything together. Rather, if there is a lack of communication, conversation, intimacy, or if they feel they just “co-exist,” this may indicate that it’s time to bring in a skilled clinician who can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back.
9. When your sex life has shifted significantly. It’s not unusual for sex to taper off a little after you’ve been together for a while. However, significant changes in the bedroom signal something is not right. An increase in sex, by the way, is also a sign of challenges, as it can signal one partner trying to make up for something they’re doing that they feel is wrong.
10. When there are ongoing relationship issues. Every relationship has sticking points or those big-ticket arguments that carry over for months without any kind of resolution in sight. This includes differing views on family finances, incompatible sex drives, and child-rearing philosophies. These challenges feel impossible, but they can be worked out and both partners can reach a reasonable resolution. Therapists help if both parties are committed to understanding the other’s point of view and are willing to find common ground.
On average, couples wait 6 years before seeking help. In truth, you are best served if you seek help sooner rather than later.
*Source: HuffPost / The Gottman Institute
P.S. A different alternative to Counseling might be meeting with Marriage Mentors.
Russ and I are not certified counselors but we mentor using the 19 years of couples counseling
we’ve taken combined with leading over 200 couples through a fantastic
marriage curriculum created by our church.
If you think your spouse might be more open to meeting with a
husband and wife duo feel free to read through these