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5 Obvious Signs You Need Marriage Counseling Right Now

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Where did you say your wedding vows? On a beach? Perhaps in your home church, or the synagogue in your new town, or at the courthouse with a few friends.

Wherever you said them, your heart was full of hope, and perhaps a little anxiety. When I said my vows, family later told me that lightning flashed and thunder crashed.

I didn’t hear or see any of that, I was so caught up in my own hope, my own anxieties about the commitment I was making.

No matter where you spoke those vows, or whether the words you said were traditional to your religion or culture, or written from the heart and unique to you and your intended, they carried the promise and the hope of a happy life together.

Are you having marriage issues? Here are 5 signs you may need marriage counseling.

So what do you do when the hope and promise of those vows appears to be lost forever in the hustle and bustle of work, money problems, illness, children, in-laws, and the thousand other ways our marriages can be derailed, when the vision of happiness we held in our hearts on our wedding day dribbles away?

How do you know when it’s time to stop ignoring the problem, or stop trying to fix it yourself, and seek help from a professional marriage counselor?

Getting professional help doesn’t mean you’re headed for divorce, though that is often a worry for couples. A reputable marriage counselor will help you sift through your issues while providing emotional support and neutral ground.

Too often, seeking marriage counseling is the last resort of a desperate couple, which is where the “heading for divorce” adage comes from.

Too many couples left their problems to simmer for too long until repair was no longer possible.

When your car makes a funny noise, don’t you take it to a mechanic? How does the importance of your marriage compare to the importance of your car?

Don’t wait. If your marriage exhibits any of these five signs, the “funny noises” that your relationship is breaking down, seek out that professional marriage counselor before it’s too late.

1. All you do is fight.

And there is so much to fight about! Whose turn it is to cook dinner. Forgetting to call when running late. Spenders coupled with savers.

An easygoing parent married to a strict disciplinarian, and don’t even get me started about night owls married to morning larks.

There’s a reason psychologists have coined the first stages of marriage, “the honeymoon phase.” In the beginning of a romance, love casts a rosy glow and glosses over any differences in values or compatibility.

Even couples who have lived together before marriage, or those on a second or third spouse, will need to make adjustments. There’s something about saying, “I do,” that magnifies the importance of those differences in values, lifestyle and temperament.

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When you’re yoked together forever, suddenly it’s “the little things” that loom large.

The Problems: By themselves, these differences don’t have to cause conflict. The problem comes when one or both halves of the couple see their way as the “right” way.
If one of you is right, then the other one has to be wrong, and no one likes to be thought in the wrong, especially by the person who is supposed to love you the most.
Feelings get hurt. Positions get entrenched and suddenly every little thing is a battle.
Sound familiar? If this is you, a marriage counselor can help you negotiate your differences as well as the maze of hurt feelings, resentments and self-righteousness that go along with them.

 

2. You never talk anymore.

This is the opposite problem of the first one and the root of it is avoidance. Many couples would rather avoid conflict, even if it means the problem never gets resolved.

Noticing differences can feel very threatening to the relationship.

Sometimes we’d rather pretend everything is fine, because the notion that it might not be raises feelings of insecurity and vulnerability.

We worry that bringing something up might “make the other person mad,” which would make things worse. Being unable to talk about what’s bothering you in a relationship is a sure sign that a marriage counselor is needed.

The Problems: If we never talk about problems, then we don’t have any, right? Wrong.
Over time, the issues a couple refuses to discuss become giant craters in the relationship, craters that take a great deal of work and energy to avoid.
How much healthier and more productive for the relationship to be able to air grievances and know that you’ll be able to hear each other out and find a way through the difficulty.
When you can’t do that anymore, it’s time to seek help.

 

3. You are facing BIG life issues.

Serious illness. The death of a loved one. Money problems. A job loss. Trouble with fertility. Drug or alcohol abuse. Mental illness.

A child with serious problems. All of these are giant life stressors that will tax even the best of marriages.

These events in and of themselves require extra help and support to get through, never mind what the pain and anguish might do to your relationship.

Couples don’t always have the same coping styles, nor are they always able to lean on each other, especially if the BIG issue is with the other spouse.

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Even if you can lean on each other, the stressor itself may be larger than what either of you can handle without extra support.

The Problems: There is only so much the human heart can bear alone.
Big life issues require a village to support, to comfort, to heal.
Some people feel very private about serious issues, and are not comfortable sharing their deeper struggles, even with their spouse.
When a couple has maxed out their own resources for coping, but still feel very needy as individuals, then that’s when hurt, resentment and blame rear their ugly heads, each spouse wanting more than what the other can give.
Reaching out to a professional can provide that extra support, plus teach tools to help you cope as individuals, and as a couple.

 

4. You are afraid to be real.

Do you have topics you tiptoe around?

Do you hide parts of yourself because you know your spouse won’t approve? I’m not talking about a porn addiction, or criminal behavior (see #3), just spontaneous parts of yourself that you have learned not to express because of negative commentary from your spouse.

I’m also not talking about “teasing.” For example, one spouse likes country music and the other classical, and the teasing is done good naturedly so both parties feel a sense of connection from knowing each other so well.

The fear I’m talking about that should send you to a marriage counselor comes from one spouse being critical and disapproving, leaving their partner feeling defensive, ashamed, embarrassed, and perhaps threatened.

The threat might be seen in the withholding of affection, love, sex, or approval.

Or it might extend to withholding money or the freedom to do what you want.

Perhaps it’s not a threat you perceive when you are your real self; perhaps it’s a demand: “If you’re going to do X, then you have to do Y for me.”

Perhaps the disapproval is more than verbal: maybe you’ve been hit, grabbed, yelled at, cursed, had things thrown at you, or been forced sexually.

Know this: Fear has no place between two people in a healthy marriage. If you are afraid of your spouse—whether you’re feeling a subtle clenching in your gut or jaw, a tension headache, or raw terror from the physical violence—it is past time to see a marriage counselor.

The Problems: When one spouse uses criticisms and disapproval to control, manipulate or somehow change the behavior of the other, it is not good for either partner.
Neither of you can live full lives safe in the love of the other person.
This kind of emotional and/or physical abuse generally gets worse over time, and leads to chronic health problems, chronic emotional problems, physical injuries, and sometimes even the death of one partner at the hands of the other.
If you can’t be who you really are with your partner, please find a marriage counselor to help you sort out your relationship.

 

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5. Your sex life isn’t fulfilling.

Sex is soooo embarrassing for many couples to talk about. Consequently, one or both partners stay miserable with how things are in the bedroom, rather than discuss such private needs.

The thing is, no one is born knowing how to please another person sexually.

It’s learned behavior, and what excites a former lover may not do anything for your spouse, so stop relying on your “signature move”!

The sex drive can also vary quite a bit from person to person, and over time, so sometimes couples are mismatched there as well.

An unfulfilling sex life doesn’t have to be the end of the world, and is often easily remedied, IF a couple can get over their inhibitions and talk about their needs. But sometimes that’s a big if.

The Problems: No sex. Unsatisfying sex. Fantasies about cheating. Actual cheating. A loss of intimacy–All these can result from a poor sex life.
A good sex life can act like a vaccination for the marriage, building up a store of good feelings and good memories that inoculates a couple against breaking apart when times are hard. In the animal world it’s called, “pair bonding” which is a lovely term.
Every pair of people bonded in marriage has a unique culture, customs and rituals.
A fulfilling sex life—whatever that means for a couple—demonstrates to one another the special bond you two share, thereby sustaining your love and your relationship.
So if you’re unhappy in the bedroom and can’t bring yourself to talk about it . . . you know what you need to do.

The feelings you have about your partner and your marriage are critical to your mental and emotional health.

If you experience any of the above signs of a troubled relationship, I encourage you to find a reputable marriage counselor to help you improve the most important relationship in your life.

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