When to Seek Relationship Counseling
There are all different types of relationships. And while there is no one-size-fits-all, every healthy relationship relies on a certain amount of communication, respect, and compromise. Relationships are dynamic and ever-changing because the people involved in them have different personalities, needs, and personal histories. Even the best relationships meet challenges and speed bumps from time to time along the journey. Past differences and miscommunications can compile and, over time, have a significant impact on a long-term relationship. Relationship counseling can be extremely helpful during these times, both to heal past as well as prevent future wounds.
This is especially true in romantic relationships where emotions can run deep, and the stakes are high. Even couples who contend that they never fight will not always agree on everything. Disagreements are a natural part of every relationship, but it is how disagreements are handled that can have a profound impact on the relationship as a whole.
Employing healthy strategies, especially during times of crisis, can be the difference between a relationship that thrives and a relationship that ends. The intervention of a professional counselor can be a vital resource to not only help the relationship but also to ensure that each individual’s needs are being met.
Relationship counseling may not be something you had ever envisioned pursuing. There may even be a social or familial stigma attached to the idea. That being said, relationships are highly personal and emotional so each couple must do what they feel is right for them. Having an educated yet impartial person to mediate and guide discussions can make all the difference in the world. The following are just a few examples of signs that it may be time to seek counseling for your relationship:
Lack of or Poor Communication
Communication is an important part of life and a vital part of every relationship. It is not easy to talk about difficult subjects. Instances of someone losing their temper, belittling, or ignoring the other party are not effective means of conflict resolution. It is natural to avoid things that are unpleasant but if you are failing to communicate because one or both of you react badly, this may be a sign that you need an intermediary.
Do you struggle to effectively communicate your thoughts, feelings, needs, or expectations? Sometimes the communication breakdown isn’t so much the other person’s reaction as it is our own difficulty in expressing ourselves. This difficulty may be due to struggling to find the appropriate words to describe what we mean, or even a lack of self-confidence. Someone well-versed in the fundamentals of human psychology and relationship structures can be a valuable asset in these cases.
Feeling Contempt Towards Your Partner
It is probably not reasonable to think that you will have nothing but adoration for your partner every minute of every day. However, marginalizing someone by holding them in disdain, or by rejecting their viewpoints or sentiments totally, is never a healthy place to be. And if they are doing the same to you, it is a sure sign that professionally counseling could help you reconnect and find healthier ways to communicate through day-to-day life.
The inability to compromise and find common ground on significant topics is a problem that cannot be ignored. When one or both parties must always be right or “win” conversations or disputes it makes it difficult to reach a compromise and find common ground on crucial matters. Sometimes the personalities involved makes this a more prevalent dynamic, but it is often a sign that the relationship has deteriorated and is in need of help.
Refusal To Let Go of The Past
When problems are not worked through in a healthy way, hurts and resentments can build. A refusal to forgive, let go, or move beyond past wounds or conflicts, can be a source of contention in any relationship. Couples who have been together for a long period of time have often made significant sacrifices, whether it is in terms of finances, raising children, or dividing household chores. If one partner feels that they are doing an unfair share, this can lead to resentment, which can then spill over into other areas of the relationship. Ineffective conflict resolution, or “fighting dirty” can also create wounds in addition to the original disagreement or conflict.
Counseling can not only help resolve previous grievances, it also can help the couple prevent future situations, thereby breaking this unhealthy cycle.
Being Petty or Passive Aggressive
Sometimes when communication breaks down, we can feel angry, vengeful, or even powerless in the situation. At those times, we may retaliate, even subconsciously, by being petty or being passive aggressive towards our partner. For example, if one partner feels unfairly burdened with the chores, they may retaliate by refusing to clean, wash the dishes, or do laundry to see how long the other partner would go before doing so themselves. Instead of discussing the perceived injustice of the cleaning routine with their partner, they wait for them to “know what it feels like” or to get frustrated enough to do it themselves, which nearly always fails and causes even more hostility between them. It is also a sign that communication has broken down and that there is a lack of respect for the other person’s feelings.
You Start Thinking About Infidelity or Separation
While infidelity and separation are not at all the same thing, one can often lead to the other. Hostility, frustration, or boredom can sometimes carryover to the sexual side of romantic relationships. A strained relationship can create a lack of physical and emotional intimacy and connection which can increase the possibility of engaging in infidelity. When one or both partners are feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, or isolated for prolonged periods of time they may begin entertaining thoughts of ending the relationship all together.
It is important to remember that even relationships that are working relatively well can benefit from some professional assistance or marriage counseling. Oftentimes it is easier to prevent problems than it is to recover from them. It is also important to understand that seeking professional assistance if you want to improve your relationship is not a sign of failure. If there are problems in your relationship that you are struggling to resolve on your own, seeking professional help before they reach a point of no return is a healthy and adult response to the situation.