I’m well aware that counseling—specifically marriage counseling—often gets seen as a last resort. We think about marriage counseling when there are major issues like abuse, addictions, abandonment or infidelity.
But what if I told you we needed to start considering counseling 10 steps before those things ever happen?
If my counselor heart could have one wish, I’d wish that people would see counseling as a regular part of their health and well-being long before problems came into view; that they would understand that in order to maintain your emotional and psychological health, you’ve got to invest in it.
Unfortunately, my wish is not a reality quite yet.
Last week, on a discussion thread on my Facebook page, it hurt my heart to read story after story of the stigma that can often exist around the topic of counseling—particularly within the walls of the Church. I’m hopeful though, that step by step, we’re moving in the right direction.
But until we get there, allow me to make it blatantly clear that there are times when counseling shouldn’t be optional, but rather, crucial.
Let’s start with the topic of marriage, as we talk through 10 signs you need to get yourself into marriage counseling:
1. You find yourself caught in a repetitive pattern of arguing that ends with high emotional reactions but no resolution in the end.
2. You find that the majority of your time together is filled with tension and irritation rather than enjoyment.
3. Somewhere in the relationship one or both parties don’t feel like they can fully trust the other (whether or not there has been a breach of trust).
4. There’s a pattern of blatant deceit, hiding things or omitting the truth, and a lack of openness and honesty.
5. You’ve experienced a trauma, grief, or life-changing event that has left one or both of you feeling stuck (death of a child, major injury, etc).
6. You feel like you have “drifted apart” from one another and are struggling to feel emotional or physical connection.
7. You find yourself going to someone outside your spouse to get your emotional needs met—for support, to relax, to vent or simply to have a good time.
8. You feel apathetic toward your spouse and find that you hardly interact or communicate throughout the week.
9. There’s been a lack of physical and sexual intimacy in your marriage for a significant amount of time that’s caused concern.
10. You find yourself inappropriately attracted to other people (emotionally, physically or sexually) on a regular basis—or you’re worried that your spouse is.
While all these things are sure signs that you and your spouse need to take some time for marriage counseling, not having any of these issues doesn’t mean you don’t need counseling.
There’s no better way to take care of your marriage than using “preventive maintenance” by preventing major problems before they come up. If we only took our cars into the mechanic when there was a major issue, we would probably cut the life span of our car in half! Now, imagine what we’re doing to our marriages.
Counseling is not just for couples who are struggling, it’s also for couples who want to make or keep their marriage strong. So no matter where you are on the spectrum of a thriving marriage, I highly recommend taking at least six to eight weeks to focus on marriage counseling with a licensed professional. Your marriage will thank you for it.
If you and your partner are considering counseling, it may be easier if you’re on the same page about your relationship. Take this short, free relationship assessment with your partner today.
Debra Fileta is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She's also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter or book a session with her today!