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How to Know if You Need a Marriage Counselor
Marriage counseling can help you maintain a healthy and strong relationship. To decide if marriage counseling is right for you, consider the state of your relationship and assess your communication problems. If you are going through a medical, financial, or family crisis, marriage counseling may be a good option. Make sure to include your spouse in the decision as well.
Help with Starting to Seek Counseling
Evaluating Your Overall Relationship
Reflect on your feelings regarding the marriage.Write down how you feel when you think about your spouse. Try to consider if you feel angry, frustrated, hopeless, or disinterested in your marriage. If you answer yes to the following questions, you may need counseling:
- Do you feel as though your partner consistently takes you for granted?
- Do you feel as though you are often or consistently neglected or ignored by your partner?
- Does your partner make you feel angry or annoyed on a daily basis?
- Do you feel jealous of your partner's friends or career?
- Do you feel sad, hopeless, or "stuck" in your marriage?
Identify any trust issues in your relationship.Trust is essential for a relationship to succeed. If you and your spouse cannot trust each other, it is time for you to get professional help. Some signs of trust issues include:
- Monitoring the phone calls, text messages, emails, and social media of your partner.
- Refusing to allow each other to go out or socialize with friends.
- Accusing each other of cheating without adequate evidence.
- Keeping secrets from each other.
Monitor the frequency and satisfaction of your sex life.All couples may go through periods of reduced sexual activity, but these should be temporary. If you or your partner has lost interest in sex for a prolonged period of time, seek advice from a counselor.
- Try to keep track of how often you have had sex in the last 2-3 months. While every couple’s expectation is different, ask yourself if you’re satisfied with this pattern. If not, seek counseling.
- Alternatively, if your spouse seems dissatisfied with your sex life, don’t ignore their complaints. Even if you’re happy with it, you should address their concerns.
- Some problems in the bedroom can be solved through communication and compromise. That said, if talking to your spouse about the problem doesn’t work, see a counselor.
Assess if your relationship is defined by contempt.Contempt means that 1 or both partners see themselves as better than the other partner. Ideally, in a relationship, both partners respect each other and see each other equal footing. If you answer yes to the following questions, consider seeing a marriage counselor:
- Do you often get mad at your partner for doing things "wrong"?
- Does your partner yell at you for doing things a certain way?
- Do you or your partner believe that you are smarter than the other person?
- Do you often forget why you are married to your spouse?
- Is it difficult for you to think of your spouse's positive qualities?
- Do you or your partner refuse to take responsibility for your actions in the relationship?
Ask yourself if you still love your spouse.If the answer is yes, marriage counseling can help strengthen your relationship, no matter how rough it may be at this moment. If you're uncertain, marriage counseling may help you figure out your feelings.
- If the answer is no, you must seriously consider whether or not counseling will help you love your partner again. If counseling is to help, you must be willing to put in the effort to save your marriage.
Addressing Communication Issues
Seek help if you seem to be arguing constantly.If it seems that every conversation ends in an argument, your relationship may need help, especially if your arguments become increasingly negative, aggressive, or bitter in tone.
- In healthy marriages, arguments should not generally cross the line into nasty criticisms or insults. If this does not seem to be the case for you and your partner, a counselor is definitely a good idea.
- Additionally, in healthy marriages, the partners rebound from arguments and don't carry them into the future.
Consider counseling if you argue about the same things repeatedly.If your disagreements with your partner center around the same issues again and again, this means that these issues aren't being resolved. You may need professional help to communicate with one another and fix the underlying problems.
- For example, if you can’t seem to agree on household responsibilities and you argue about it frequently, a marriage counselor can help you sort out the underlying communication issue.
- Holding grudges in a marriage be a sign of trouble. If an argument or fight happened more than a month ago and you still can’t get over it, it may be time to seek counseling.
Uncover any hidden issues if you never fight.If you and your partner never fight, it may mean that there are issues that aren't being talked about. If you often feel like you are pretending everything is okay or suppressing your emotions, a marriage counselor can help you express these feelings in healthy ways.
- For example, if you're frustrated about your partner's smoking habit, you may be afraid to bring it up. A marriage counselor can help you approach this issue.
Get help if you clash over different perspectives.When couples have different practices or beliefs, it can be tough to communicate and make your respective feelings understood. A marriage counselor can help you deal with many of these issues, including:
- Different value systems. For example, 1 spouse may believe that the other spouse should give up their career when children enter the picture while the other spouse wants to keep their job.
- Different religious beliefs. For example, 1 spouse may want to raise children in a particular religion against the wishes of the other spouse.
- Different interests that might cause tension. For example, if 1 spouse is addicted to video games, counseling may help.
Look for other options if physical or emotional abuse is involved.If you are the victim of physical or emotional abuse, marriage counseling is not recommended. Counseling does not solve the problem of abuse, and it may delay the solution. Instead, strongly consider leaving the relationship.
- If you use physical force against your spouse and you would like to change your behavior, consider an intervention program for abusive behavior. Talk to an anger management therapist or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Dealing with Crises and Conflicts
Find a marriage counselor if a separation seems imminent.When one or both of you starts mentioning divorce or separation, it is time to assess your relationship seriously. If you both want to make it work, see a counselor as soon as possible.
- This advice also applies if arguments are escalating to the point where one of you leaves the house, creating an unplanned, short-term separation.
Seek counseling if 1 or both of you have been unfaithful.Infidelity does not necessarily lead to divorce, but it can take a lot of time and commitment to work through such a major breach of trust. Professional assistance is recommended in these situations.
- When couples feel distant, they may start an “emotional affair” where they develop feelings for someone else, even if they do not have a physical relationship. This is a warning that your marriage needs serious work.
Get help if either person is dealing with mental illness.If one of you is dealing with major depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, your relationship may suffer. In addition to individual counseling for the person dealing with mental illness, you should check in with a marriage counselor together.
Consider seeking help after traumatic experiences.People who suffer from a traumatic experience sometimes find that their marriages suffer as a result. Individual therapy may also be needed. Consider seeing a marriage counselor if your relationship has been affected by:
- The death of a parent, child, or another close relative
- A major illness
- Rape, assault, or another violent experience
- A home burglary or fire
- Loss of a job
Look for a counselor if parenthood is causing tension.Starting a family is a major adjustment that can throw your relationship off-kilter. A marriage counselor may be helpful if:
- You and your spouse have children from other marriages or relationships who are struggling to adjust.
- You cannot agree on whether you should have children (or more children).
- You cannot agree on how to raise your children.
- You disagree about the religion, discipline, or education of your children.
- You feel you are staying in your marriage “for the children.”
Get counseling if you are struggling with finances.If you and your partner are butting heads over spending habits or budgets, a marriage counselor may be a good resource. Marriage counseling can also help your relationship weather financial difficulties, like debt, buying a house, or sending a child to college.
Talking to Your Partner
Find a quiet time to talk to your spouse.The decision to attend marriage counseling should be a mutual discussion. Find a time when neither you nor your spouse are busy. Talk privately away from children or other family members.
- Let your spouse know you want to talk about something serious. Make sure they’re not distracted by television or the computer.
- You might say, “Hey, can we take an hour tonight to talk about our relationship?”
Ask your partner how they feel about your relationship.It is important to consider your partner’s feelings when deciding to get marriage counseling. Perhaps they have also felt tension in your marriage or perhaps they do not think anything is wrong.
- When your partner speaks, listen to them. You may feel defensive or upset by their comments. Instead of arguing with them, say something like, “That’s probably a good reason why we should attend marriage counseling.”
Discuss why you want to go to marriage counseling.Tell your spouse that you think it would be a good idea to get marriage counseling. Focus on building and strengthening your relationship.
- State your perspective in “I” statements to avoid blame or arguments. For example, instead of saying “You nag me about everything,” you might say, “When I am criticized for everything I do, it makes me feel as though I am not valued.”
- Remind your partner what is good and wonderful about your relationship. You might try to prepare 5 positive statements about why your marriage is worth saving.
Decide together what needs to be done to save your relationship.Your partner might suggest trying alternatives before getting marriage counseling. Take this as a good sign. Instead of getting counseling, you can try developing your own plan. If the plan doesn’t work, then you can see a counselor.
- For example, you might decide to implement a weekly date night to help restore intimacy or you may agree on new responsibilities around the house.
- Your partner may ask you if you want a divorce. Answer this question honestly. If you both agree without hesitation that you want a divorce, marriage counseling may not be able to save your relationship.
Determine if your partner is willing to work with a counselor.For marriage counseling to work, both partners must make a commitment to give it their best effort. Understand that the counselor may ask difficult questions or send you home with homework. Ask your partner if they are willing to do give it a serious try.
- If you want to seek marriage counseling but your partner refuses to go, most therapists will see people individually as well.
Find a counselor together.Your primary care doctor, religious leader, close friends, or personal therapist can provide referrals to marriage counselors. You may also be able to find 1 online. Make sure that you both agree on which counselor is best for you.
QuestionHow do you find a marriage counselor?AFertigCommunity AnswerStart by asking your doctor for a referral. You can also ask family members, friends, religious leaders, or other people for suggestions, especially if you know who has been in marriage counseling before. You might also search online for therapists near you.Thanks!
- Understand that conflicts and arguments are normal and healthy in any marriage. You should not expect a conflict-free relationship. You can, however, change the tone and effectiveness of your arguments and work on respecting one another more.
- It’s better to see a marriage counselor as soon as you think you may have a serious problem than to wait too long and let your relationship deteriorate.
- If you decide to pursue marriage counseling, try to go in with an open mind and a positive attitude. In general, this will help you succeed at improving your relationship.
- Even in a strong relationship, marriage counseling can help you strengthen your communication styles or transition through major life events.
Sources and Citations
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