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There is no doubt that when you got married, you assumed that you had achieved your fairy-tale and that you and your spouse would live happily ever after. The common misconception is that this so-called fairy-tale doesn’t exist and that marriage takes a lot of work. More work than you could ever have expected.
More often than not, you go into a relationship lacking the necessary tools to deal with and manage any challenges you and your spouse may encounter. There comes a point in the relationship when it becomes necessary to speak with a counselor in order to learn new ways of relating to your partner on many different levels.
When do you know it’s time to consider marriage counseling? Here are some red flags and behaviors that are clear indicators that your marriage needs help.
Lack of Communication
Most commonly, many of the challenges within a marriage start because of a lack of communication. By bringing in a therapist, you are able to help facilitate new ways to communicate with your spouse. Deteriorating communication can be hard to get back so it’s important to tackle this challenge immediately.
Affection is Withheld as Means of Punishment
When you find yourself or your spouse withholding affection as a means of punishment, it means that one is acting like a punisher instead of trying to fix the situation at hand. Counselors may be able to recommend ways to re-kindle the affection between each other.
In a relationship, both spouses are entitled to their privacy, but when it comes to keeping secrets from each other, there is a concern surrounding that. A therapist may be able to help each spouse understand what are considered items that are private versus secrets.
You and your spouse are communicating, but it’s always negative. Negative communication includes leaving your spouse feeling insignificant, judged, shamed or insecure. These feelings can lead to complete withdrawal from not only the conversation but from the spouse as well. Keep in mind that the negative communication can also include tone because it’s not always what is said, but how it is said. Sometimes emotional abuse and non-verbal communication can be a result of such negative communication. Therapists may be able to help facilitate ways to manage communication and turn it from negative to constructive in order to turn communication around within the marriage.
Afraid to Talk
Sometimes when a marriage has issues, one or both of the spouses may refrain from bringing up topics because they’re afraid of the repercussions that will follow. Little habits can be blown out of proportion and just the idea of bringing up something sends you into a frenzy. A therapist’s job is to help couples begin to discuss their issues with each other in order to help them understand exactly what they’re each trying to communicate.
Contemplating or Engaging in an Affair
Fantasizing about having an affair is a red flag that you desire something other than what you have. Meaning, you’re interested in getting involved with someone other than your spouse. While some couples are able to bounce back after a partner engages in an affair, it’s imperative to seek help before an affair happens. The marriage will be salvageable if both spouses are committed to making the marriage work. One of the best things that can come from a discussion with a counselor is that one or both of you may realize that it is actually healthier for both of you to move on without each other.
When a partner keeps their spouse in the dark about spending or needs to be in absolute control of their money, then it needs to be addressed because that partner has every right to better understand their financial situation. Sometimes being financially unfaithful is worse than a sexual affair. If your spouse insists on being in control of the finances, a therapist may be able to help with this conflict and help the spouse understand the advantages of financial partnership.
Living Separate Lives
For some couples, their relationship transitions from marriage to being more like roommates. For couples who relate to this situation, it’s important to determine if the issue arose from lack of communication, conversation, or intimacy. When it feels like your relationship is more of a routine, then it’s crucial to see a specialist who can help your relationship and assist in making you both feel more like a married couple versus roommates.
Significant Shift in Sex Life
It comes as no surprise to many that over time sex can taper off or become less frequent, but when significant changes in your sex life occur, these are signals of issues within the marriage. Also, an increase in sexual activity can also mean that one may be making up for something that they feel is wrong. They’re possibly trying to make up for a guilty conscience. A counselor may be able to get to the bottom of this issue by asking the couple to discuss the things they have guilt over.
Continued Arguments over the Same Things
Both spouses possess triggers or specific behaviors that drive them crazy. These issues may not bother other people, but they can be something as insignificant as the dishwasher being loaded in a way that irritates their spouse. The spouse may not understand why fights occur based on something they see as so small, and they are stumped as to what they can do to fix it. A therapist can help a couple talk through such issues and help get to the root of the situation.
When there are on-going relationship issues with your spouse and it has been determined that, as a couple, you are unable to fix the marriage or address the issues without coming up with solutions, it’s time to meet with a marriage counselor. If love is still present in the marriage, and you both mutually agree to make the marriage work and address the underlying issues, there is no doubt that marriage counseling can really help turn your marriage around.
For those couples who decide that trying to counsel their own marriage and the issues therein instead of speaking to a marriage counselor, it should come as no surprise that their marriage will only suffer more. Just because a marriage counselor is needed, does not mean that you should be ashamed of that. They’re there to help in the most non-judgmental way possible.
Check out Marriage After Baby: What No One Tells You for more insight on marriage and children.