If one or more of the seven situations below are all too familiar to you, then you know how stressful they can be. If so, consider couples counseling to get on a path to improving your relationship.
1. Constant Fighting or Arguing
You may find yourself constantly fighting with your partner, whether you feel they pick a fight or say you are. For others, fighting seems to ‘just happen,’ where even a casual conversation escalates ‘out of the blue’ and leaves you wondering, ‘what just happened?’
You may be on the same page as your partner in many respects, but of course, you’re not going to agree on everything. If you are in a pattern of frequent or rapidly escalating fights (or both), a professional can help.
Another way professional help is valuable is in changing the pattern after the fight is over. Arguments that are not resolved- helping you understand each other better and building your resilience as a couple- can also contribute to a downwards spiral. Each time that happens, partners often feel less and less hopeful that the relationship can be what they need it to be.
If you are experiencing conflict, you can benefit from couples therapy. A trained and experienced therapist can help you prevent conflict, navigate conflict better when it happens, and develop resolution skills that strengthen your relationship. It’s the path of mutual empathy instead of feeling misunderstood or not heard.
2. Conflict Avoidance
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s conflict avoidance. Many partners opt for not bringing up sensitive topics. It can be to avoid an argument that experience tells them will ensue. It can also be a means of harm-reduction, of trying to keep a fragile peace as best they can. This may come across as avoidance to the other partner, not caring about them, or the relationship itself.
Over time, a lack of connecting communication deprives a relationship of meaningful interactions that build and keep a connection. Connecting communications have specific characteristics. They:
· Say what you want, need, or prefer
· Communicate your ideas, wishes, and values
· Tell your partner how you’re feeling, especially the more vulnerable feelings.
· Communicate things that need your attention together.
Connecting communications are not:
· Delivered critically or with condescension
· A form of attack that leads to a defensive response
· Blaming the other for how you feel.
There may not be enough safety for one or both to bring up sensitive topics. The same can be true regarding problems that need to be solved together or sharing vulnerable feelings. If so, it may be time to seek a counselor’s help.
Two vital aspects of a good and strong relationship are trust and commitment. Both are multi-factorial and show up in many ways in relationships. However, conflict avoidance can also indicate that one or both of these essential aspects are not as strong as they need to be for one or both partners. A professional couples therapist will help identify the reasons for conflict avoidance. They can also help identify barriers to building trust. Trust contributes to commitment- the wish to stay together, no matter what life throws at you.
3. Fading Feelings of Love
It’s only natural for the honeymoon phase of a relationship to end. But strong feelings of love, regard, and caring- the bond between two people- never has to end. If you or your partner find that your feelings for the other are fading- or if you say to yourself, “I love him/her, but I don’t like them,” it’s time to get couples therapy.
‘Falling out of love’ isn’t one feeling; it’s a set of things. Think of a warning light that might come on the dashboard of your car or device. Maybe your car is low on gas, or your phone needs to be charged. Maybe it’s something less obvious that you’re not used to paying attention to. Your car or phone eventually dies after getting drained of what it needs to operate. While we’re more complicated than that, the idea is the same. ‘Falling out of love can indicate a whole panel of blinking warning lights that need attention. When one or both partners consistently don’t get what’s essential to them, the energy starts to drain out of the relationship.
If you feel that you are ‘falling out of love’ with your partner, couples therapy can help you understand what’s happening and why. It’s more than a simple behavioral fix, where you tell your partner, ‘do more of this, don’t do that’. It has to go deeper so that you both want to make changes that serve the other.
If you feel that your partner is ‘falling out of love’ with you, and the two of you haven’t been able to have a meaningful, heartfelt discussion, couples counseling can help.
4. The Same Issues Keep Popping Up
Have you felt that the same problems seem to keep popping up over and over again, and you and your partner can’t seem to find a resolution? No matter how many times you have the same argument, it always manages to find its way back into your conversations.
If you have difficulties working out solutions to specific issues, you may benefit from having a non-judgmental third party. These may be issues around finances, parenting, time alone or together, or relationship with in-laws, to name a few.
A trained couples therapist won’t tell you what to do to solve specific problems. They will, however, help you learn to approach and solve problems together differently and more productively. That way, you can deal with future issues and decisions as they come up. You don’t have to feel that you’re stuck on a treadmill of an unresolved, perennial problem. When such issues linger, they damage and erode confidence in the strength and resilience of the partnership.
5. Discovery of Physical or Emotional Affairs
Learning of a physical or emotional affair can be devastating, cause depression, and be highly traumatic. (hyperlink 1). Deciding whether or not to try to rebuild the relationship is one decision that a couple, especially the hurt partner, may need to make. Hurt partners may go to couples therapy to determine if they want to salvage the relationship. On the other hand, the partner who had an affair must also be willing to put in the work to help repair both the broken trust and broken bond, which is anything but easy.
The process of helping couples recover and rebuild after any form of affair requires specialized knowledge and sensitivity. Couples therapy can help you rebuild when both partners have decided to stay. First, this involves dealing with the ‘ground zero’ impact of the affair’s discovery. Second, it deals with the longer-term aftermath while building a stronger relationship together in a new way.
6. Different Thoughts on Sex
Sex is a significant aspect of many people’s relationships. For some, it’s a means to feel connected and intimate, both physically and emotionally. For others, physical intimacy is the result of already feeling connected emotionally. In addition, partners often have differences in the frequency of desire, which can lead to conflict or the build-up of barriers in the relationship. The significance of having sex- the importance and meaning placed on it- also differs between partners.
If you and your partner have been having differences or disagreements on sex (hyperlink 2), it may affect your relationship in general. Couples therapy can help you deal with how these differences or disagreements impact the relationship. Each of you can also better understand how your partner wants to receive physical expressions of affection and desire.
If your primary focus is on sexuality, for issues such as lack of physical intimacy, sexual preferences, or sexual addiction, consider guidance from a qualified sex therapist (hyperlink 3).
7. Big Changes are Coming
Significant changes can be challenging. It can be having a baby, retiring, or moving. Or it can be an uninvited life change, such as loss of a job, illness, or caregiving demands.
Life changes can be challenging to deal with individually and as a couple. But with that challenge, there can be an opportunity to come together differently, learn more about each other, and understand each other’s deepest values. Your therapist can help you walk through the challenges of change. This can involve meaningful conversations, discussing life priorities, and adjusting to new living conditions together.
Get Couples Counseling Today
Now that you know some of the signs that it’s time to think about couples counseling, you can schedule a time to speak with a professional to see if this is a good step for you as a couple. Most couples therapists will offer a free consultation, so don’t hesitate to use this option.
Remember, seeing a counselor for any of the issues outlined here can be the first step to a lasting improvement. We’re here to help. Contact us with any questions or concerns about our couples counseling service- and continue reading our blog for more helpful information to come.