Time for Couples Counseling?
Couples counseling is one of those “scary terms” that conjures up all sorts of stereotypes. Many people falsely believe that going to see a couples counselor or marriage therapist means their relationship is doomed. That is simply not true.
Here at the center, we believe that when both parties in a relationship agree to work with a helping professional trained in the field of couples therapy, they are taking a step towards meaningful, positive change.
Most of us are not given a blueprint for our relationships. If we are brutally honest, many of the models we have been given by our family and friends are were necessarily healthy. This is why we do our best to communicate to our clients that relationships take work and that much of what people think about love and romance is based on common myths.
When To Go To Couples Counseling?
What follows are 10 common signs you and your significant other might want to consider couple counseling. Some of the material listed below may seem like common sense while others will require that you to reflect. Read them all in order to fully absorb there deeper meaning.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. When it feels like you live separate lives
If you and your mate feel more like close roomies as opposed to an intimate couple, you should consider this as an indication that counseling may be necessary.
To be clear, all couples go through periods where closeness is lacking – this is normal. The key indicator under this point is if you have gone for large spans of time where one or both of you have “checked out“. This includes basic things like talking about “real” issues and of course – sex.
2. When you are having an affair (or thinking about one)
All of us have fantasies and it’s only human to “wonder” what it might be like with someone in the physical sense. The problem comes up for couples when one or both parties in the relationship start to create plans to act on those fantasies.
If you are in a committed relationship with another where monogamy is the expectation – strong thoughts of cheating on your mate should be a major sign that counseling may be needed. This is particularly true if cheating has already happened and you are now considering an open relationship.
3. Negative communications
If most all of your conversations have an ugly, negative tone – it’s a major indication something is drastically wrong with your relationship. This is particularly true if you are afraid to talk because you fear your mate will judge you, call you names or in some way humiliate you (these may be signs of emotional abuse).
You know things are really bad when zero conversation is happening and it feels like the “silent treatment”. Under this point, individual counseling for yourself may be appropriate to help you understand how this dynamic may be damaging your self-esteem.
4. Financial infidelity
If you or your mate has been hiding financial information; such as receipts, credit card statements, ATM withdraw slips and so forth, financial cheating is going on.
One of the main reasons couples break up and divorces happen relates to money problems. Couples counseling can help to create a firm and steady “bridge of truth” about spending habits and get at the root cause of dishonesty.
5. When little or no sex is happening
Most couples go through periods where is at a minimum. This is particularly the case for folks who have been in relationships many years. A sign that something may be wrong is when sex almost never happens or when it is frequently robotic, dispassionate and/or cold.
We encourage our clients to look for historical patterns and consider how sex therapy with a couples counselor might help.
6. When you argue about the same old stuff
Does it seem like the two of you are having the disagreements about the same issues – over and over again? Do these disagreements often derail plans because one or both of you have gotten into a “bad mood”?
If this sounds familiar, couples therapy can help the both of you understand why these arguments continue to happen. Some counselors use Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFCT) as a way encouraging breakthroughs.
7. Avoiding certain topics
Are there “hot button” issues that you or your partner knows not to bring up because it will start a fight? Have these topics begun to accumulate, thereby making it difficult to talk about anything substantive or real? Is someone getting their emotional needs met through an emotional affair?
Working with a couples counselor may be a way of opening up dialogue about these issues. Therapy can also assist one or both of you from continually sabotaging the relationship.
8. When little or no trust
Like the saying goes – trust is earned. It doesn’t take much to breech trust in romantic relationships. A break in trust can happen for a number of reasons, including physical and/or emotional infidelity, lying and abuse.
A skilled couples therapist can help explore these trust issues and work with the both of you to repair the damage. We won’t lie – this is a difficult process but it can be done provided both people in the relationship are committed to change.
9. Fears of intimacy
At the beginning of a relationship, everything can seem wonderful. After the honeymoon period is over however, it is not uncommon for intimacy issues to pop up.
There are a number of potential reasons this can happen that may have nothing to do with you. Visiting a couples counselor can help to uncover what may be happening and assist with creating positive change.
10. Abusing alcohol or drugs
Do you or your mate use alcohol or other substances on a frequent basis? Is it necessary for one or both of you to become intoxicated in order to talk, have sex or “be” with one another? If you answered yes here, something is out of sync. But didn’t you already know this?
A couples therapist can help the both of you better understand why substances are being used and assess avenues for positive change in the future. One on one counseling may be necessary for you or your partner, depending upon the dynamics.
You may be wondering, “Does couples/marriage counseling really work?” You are not alone. This is a common question for many who are considering working with someone to help them through a challenging situation. Be sure to read our article on the couples counseling process and find out what to expect.
We also encourage you to take a few moments to fill out a relationship report card as a way of getting a better handle on what is happening in your particular situation.
We highly recommend An Emotionally Focused Workbook for Couples, a resource that can assist the both of you enhance communications and move through distress. The nice thing about this read is that it offers a step by step walk through of creating a more secure relational bond.
If you are thinking about couples counseling, consider it a positive sign. The opposite approach would be to live in denial about what is happening in your relationship. Over the course of time, this can erode whatever bonds exist between you and your partner, potentially leading to a collapse.