by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC
“We just don’t connect anymore.” “I don’t trust you.”
“I hate having the same argument over and over again.” “I think it’s over.”
Sound familiar? Welcome to couple-hood and read on.
Seeing a couple’s therapist is not the first step toward divorce or separation. It is not about blaming your spouse or partner for everything that is wrong in your relationship, and it is certainly not about admitting defeat. Couples need to be open to therapy, particularly if the arguments, lies and hurt feelings are leading both to think that the relationship is permanently stuck. Couples need to be ready to work at their relationship and not expect the therapist to “fix” it for them. So, when is it time to hit the couples’ couch, you ask? Here are some indicators that couples therapy is the next step in your relationship:
“Communication, table for two?”
Do you fear sharing your feelings with your spouse or partner? Do you feel as though it’s not even worth opening your mouth? Then it’s time to consult a therapist. Couples find themselves seeking help for a number of reasons, but poor communication and mistrust are the two chief complaints of most couples. Communication encompasses verbal contact (how well you converse and argue as a couple), written communique (texting and other forms of electronic messages), and the all important social cues, “Did you just roll your eyes at me!”
A common characteristic of couples who communicate well: They share feelings – sorrows, joys, hopes, dreams, and frustrations.
“I think what we’ve got on our hands is a dead shark.”
The above quote is voiced by Woody Allen in the movie ‘Annie Hall’ when he realizes that his relationship with Diane Keaton has stopped moving forward and is sinking fast. Being stuck may be the biggest sign that couples need therapy. But what does being stuck look like? Simply put, it feels like the couple is doing the same thing over and over again, and no matter how hard they try to change, things always ends up the same or worse. In many ways, they’ve just given up because that is the path of least resistance. A common characteristic of couples who are not in a rut: They communicate directly and show appreciation for each other’s ideas and feelings.
“What Happened? I didn’t sign up for this.”
Consider couples therapy as a proactive endeavor. I highly recommend that any couple seeking marriage or a live-in situation seek therapy before doing so. Sure you love each other, sure you’re not like “so and so” and that will never happen to you, but why take the risk of not openly and honestly discussing how each of you might react or feel under the stress of life events like: infidelity, family issues, or financial strain? Why wait until you are in a relationship with no clue how to navigate the arguments or respectfully engage with the other? A common characteristic of couples who use therapy as a preventative tool: They face conflict open and honestly.
“Intimacy – The Space Between.”
Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It is also about our ability to be vulnerable with the other. When intimacy fades from a relationship, couples therapy is a must. Intimacy refers to the feeling of being in a close personal relationship and belonging together. It is a familiar and effective connection with another as a result of a bond that is formed through knowledge and experience of the other. Intimacy suffers when the space and distance created by one or both people is no longer tolerable. Sex (if it is happening at all) feels empty, moments that used to create laughter and sharing are no longer happening, and that “connection” you had, well, that seems like a distant memory. Can you hug your significant other without cringing? If not, it’s time to seek professional assistance. A common characteristic of couples who are able to honestly face intimacy issues: They grow together, not apart.
Remember it is always important to consider whether your relationship is ready for therapy, but don’t throw in the towel just yet. Give it a chance. You can get all the advice and affirmations you need from family, friends and self-help gurus, but there is no substitute for working together with a professional therapist in a space that is designed to help your marriage or relationship mature and grow.
If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage click here to schedule an appointment with one of our couples therapists.
In Good Health,