Signs It Is Time For Marriage Counseling
Updated September 04, 2018
When the words "marriage counseling" are spoken, many different feelings and fears may come up. Most people associate the idea of marriage counseling with divorce, seeing it as the final straw before two people who were once happy go their own way. Others, think of themselves divulging their deepest thoughts to a stranger which produces intense feelings of anxiety.
In reality, marriage counseling is simply a tool that two people can use to strengthen their relationship or address issues that influence how well the marriage is working. Here are a few signs that it may be time for you and your spouse to head to a counselor.
Lack Of Trust
We expect that something as serious as an extramarital affair or lying about finances will cause emotional hurt in a relationship, but many times an issue much smaller is enough to break bonds. Trust is something that is gradually built up over time but is also taken away quickly. When steps are not taken to restore that trust in a marriage, no matter how small the impacting event may seem, spouses can slowly drift apart, often becoming suspicious or resentful of one another.
If you and your spouse are finding it difficult to trust each other after going through a situation where the hurt was involved, a trained therapist can help you deal with the event and the emotions that surround it.
Little Or No Communication
A lack of communication is more than just not talking to one another often; it also takes the form of frequent fighting, secret-keeping, and general disinterest for each other. If you find yourself withholding information from your spouse to avoid confrontation or if you have been accused of being difficult to talk to, a serious problem with communication may be at the core of your marriage. A therapist can teach techniques to enhance communication skills and create a safe space for you and your loved one to share your feelings without judgment.
Dealing With An Enemy
In a relationship, it is completely normal to not always agree with your significant other. However, if it seems like you and your spouse are on opposite teams, or if you are seeing your spouse as the rival in your day-to-day life, your marriage is no longer a partnership. Are you looking at your spouse with the same disdain you would like an overbearing boss or telemarketer? Then it is time to reach out to a therapist who will identify why your relationship dynamic has changed.
Bad Habits Add Stress
No one is perfect, but if one spouse has developed bad habits like alcoholism, gambling, or addiction of any kind, their behavior can take a serious toll on the marriage. While marriage counseling may not be able to solve the underlying personal issues a loved one is dealing with, (individual therapy addresses that), a marriage counselor can provide skills to work through the problem together and help each spouse maintain their individual boundaries through the healing process.
Personal Struggles Come Up
Anytime a spouse is going through something challenging, like a mental health crisis, or an episode of intense stress in their career, it is especially important for their partner to be by their side. Sometimes, personal issues are hard to understand without being directly affected by them, so if you or your spouse are struggling to empathize with one another, a marriage therapist can give you the tools you need to become more supportive and considerate.
Relationship Goals Change
All relationships change over time. Sometimes, what started as a unified vision between two people morphs into both parties wanting something completely different in their lives. In many couples, this signals a looming divorce, but a marriage counselor will help you determine if going your separate ways is necessary. If both partners commit to staying with one another, despite the new path their marriage has taken, a marriage counselor can assist in navigating any challenges, adjustments, or communication barriers that spring up along the way.
Life Changing Events Happen
Life changing events, like the birth of a child, loss of a job, or death of a family member can shake the foundation of a relationship. Major events can make us question our health, the choices we have made, or our ability to handle daily life; questions which may or may not put stress on a marriage or impart distance between spouses. If you or your loved one are dealing with a life-changing event, marriage counseling can work to keep both of you on the same page during the many mental, emotional, or physical transitions that may take place.
Thinking Of An Affair
It is possible to develop innocent feelings of attraction for others from time to time, but when those thoughts spiral into desires for physically or emotionally intimate encounters, seek help. There are many reasons why the "grass looks greener" with someone else which may range from physical attraction to current emotional needs being unmet by a spouse. A professional can evaluate why your marriage is no longer producing feelings of fulfillment the way it used to and how to get it back on track.
Less Time Spent Together
It is natural for relationships to become closer or drift apart for short periods of time, but if there has been a significant and consistent decrease in the amount of quality time you and your spouse spend together, it is important to uncover the reason why. Common issues like sleeping in separate rooms, spending free time apart, or paying more attention to electronics and technology when together, often signal a need to rekindle the relationship. Marriage counseling can help you find that spark between you again.
Not Sure If It Is Time For Marriage Counseling?
Starting marriage counseling can be an uncomfortable decision, especially if only one spouse is pushing the issue. Remember that just because two people decide marriage counseling is right for them, it does not mean that the marriage is somehow on the fast track to divorce, or that the marriage is guaranteed to survive. Marriage counseling is simply a tool to bring two people closer together. If you are on the fence, keep in mind the following:
No Issue Is Too Small
Sometimes a relationship struggles in a certain area, but otherwise is a healthy partnership between two people who genuinely want to be together. Marriage counseling is not just for serious make it or break situations like cheating and issues with money or physical intimacy. Therapy services can tackle day-to-day issues like differences in parenting and poor communication too. No couple is perfect, and every marriage has something it can work on to become stronger. Taking advantage of marriage counseling for "small issues" is perfectly okay.
It Is Okay To Take Your Time
It is also okay to not be ready for marriage counseling. Making marriage stronger takes time, and marriage counseling is just one part of an ongoing process. If you and your spouse are really on the fence about attending therapy services, start off with just one appointment, or visit multiple therapists in your area for an initial assessment. Both partners should feel safe, validated, and free to share their thoughts openly with their marriage counselor. Finding the right match may take some time but having a therapist you both can trust will likely produce better results.
Individual Therapy Helps Too
If one spouse is struggling with a personal issue that is affecting the marriage (mental illness, addiction behaviors, etc.), individual therapy should also be taken advantage of as well. Every person comes into a marriage with their history, beliefs, and challenges. Sometimes an in-depth personal look at how one's past is affecting their current relationship is needed. If you or your spouse are dealing with something that may benefit from individual therapy, bring that up with your marriage counselor.
Physical Violence Is Never Okay
If physical violence is a factor in your relationship, it is important to get help right away. A trained mental health professional can assist a specific individual with anger issues or patterns of abuse through intense intervention but putting one's life at risk while that help is sought is dangerous. If you are fearful of your spouse, do not wait for a therapist. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline now at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The Marriage Counseling Disclaimer
For most couples, avoiding divorce is the primary reason for attending marriage counseling, but therapy does not save all marriages. While uncovering deeper truths about your marriage in counseling, you and your spouse may decide it is best to go your separate ways. Accepting this as a possibility is important when deciding if you should pursue services.
As you can see, there are many times when marriage counseling is a helpful tool in a relationship. There is a lot to keep in mind when deciding whether marriage counseling will work for you, but you can take comfort in the fact that marriage counseling does not automatically equal divorce. If both partners are willing to work through their issues with one another, no matter what they are, therapy can be an incredible tool that makes a marriage stronger in the long run.