Some of the reasons relationships run into problems:
- Communication has broken down. You don’t feel heard or you have stopped talking to each other.
- Discussions turn into arguments.
- Your positive-regard bank account has run out of deposits and is in the red.
- Your sex has been disappointing or slowing down.
- You worry about being able to trust your partner or it comes out that one of you has had an affair.
- One or both of you are struggling with an addiction, whether it be chemical, money, gambling, or internet, etc.
- One or both of you is depressed or anxious.
Even the healthiest and most loving relationships have problems. Learning how to treat each other without blaming, and developing skills for compromise and win-win solutions are very important in making your relationship work well. There are many ways that couples can get into difficulty. Communication problems can lead to feeling unheard or misunderstood. Trust is long to develop and short to break. Depending on your own personal history there are going to be things your partner does that will push buttons of mistrust, annoyance, defensiveness, and even possibly betrayal.
It is interesting and challenging how often people in relationship are total opposites! One may be punctual, the other late most of the time. One may be quiet, the other love to talk. One may like to go to bed late, the other early. And of course the well known toothpaste cap and toilet seat dilemmas. One person might want to spend money freely, the other want to save. These differences can be what first attracts you to your partner, but later create the challenge and the work of being in a relationship.
How marriage/relationship counseling can help:
Couple’s counseling provides a safe place to understand your conflicts and work towards understanding and mutual respect. If you are arguing and can’t figure out how to get out of a vicious cycle of anger, disappointment, and distance, therapy can help. The therapist is there for both of you and doesn’t take sides. As you begin to understand yourselves and each other, compromise and connection is more likely to occur.
Some common areas of discord in couples are: commitment issues, jealousy, money, sexuality, betrayal, time alone or together, parenting or communication styles. The idea here is not to try to change your partner into the person you think they need to be, but to understand how you can each enhance your understanding of the other so that each has a chance to get his/her needs met.
Other reasons to get couple’s counseling: if you are trying to decide whether to take the next step in your relationship (living together, marriage, or children). Or, if you are struggling with whether to keep trying or to break up. The therapist won’t tell you what to do, but will help you to talk about things in a safer environment where you can learn skills and strategies for helping you remember why you got together in the beginning. If things are beyond repair, couples therapy can help to end relationships with less anger and recrimination, and is very helpful especially when there are children involved but also as a way to come away with some kind of friendship if you want that.
Something that most marriage therapists will say is how often couples wait until it is too late before getting help. There seems to be a certain turning point beyond which there is too much damage to repair. If you think your relationship is in trouble, try not to wait too long before getting help together. And if your partner won’t go, or isn’t ready to go with you, getting help on your own can also be very helpful. There may be ways to work on the relationship with only you there, although there is the risk that you will feel stronger and more distanced if your partner resists coming in with you.