Whether you’re in a pre-marital relationship or marriage, when your relationship works, it’s amazing. Everything feels easier in life and you’re full of energy and excitement. You feel supported and nurtured, as if nothing could knock you down. You feel alive!
When your relationship isn’t at its best, it seems to affect all areas of your life … for the worse. You may feel depressed, anxious and irritable. Your work productivity could suffer, and you might wonder if things will get better.
So how do you know if you’re just experiencing some of the common ups and downs every couple goes through? Or if it’s more serious and you need professional help from a relationship therapist?
I focus here on general warning signs that might indicate it’s time to see a therapist. Give it some thought and talk about it with your spouse or the person you are dating.
1. There’s been an affair.
Research statistics show that many couples tend to ignore infidelity occurring in their relationships. But, ignoring infidelity only causes the feelings of betrayal, guilt, and anger to be buried for a time and eventually will manifest in various ways and can lead to depression, anxiety and other serious mental health conditions.
People who have affairs find themselves in a confusing conflict between their values/morals and their behavior. For their partner, infidelity creates a violation of trust and a crisis of identity. Affairs are an act of betrayal and, living in this digital age, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts.
An affair redefines a relationship and every couple will determine what the legacy of the affair will be for their marriage – whether it thrives, dies or merely survives.
2. You routinely have dead-end fights.
It’s normal for every couple to have disagreements from time to time. But if you’re feeling exhausted and hopeless from constantly fighting with your partner about things that never get resolved, then it’s time to seek help. Fights are about, “”I’m right. I’m good. You’re wrong. You’re bad.”” When two people are fighting to be understood — the result is no one is heard, and both feel hurt.
The solution is to identify your patterns and learn ways to rewire your communication, so you get off the merry-go-round of endless conflict.
3. You feel disconnected, shut down or lonely.
The point of a relationship is to share your life with someone who cares about you, supports you and wants nothing but the best for you.
However, if you’re feeling disconnected, emotionally shut down or lonely in your relationship — you likely have constructed an “emotional wall” to keep the pain out. The downside is that it also keeps the pain inside of you and prevents you from taking in love.
4. You feel insecure, clingy or jealous.
I often work with couples where insecurity and jealousy has become a big issue, to the extent where one partner ends up spying on the other partner through social media, dating apps and emails.
If trust has been lost and replaced by jealousy, the relationship needs help. Not feeling secure with your partner puts enormous stress on both people. Sometimes jealousy follows you from past relationships where there was a major breach of trust. Other times, it might be your current partner who is acting in a way that raises new suspicions; such as communicating with an ex — and then minimizing their behaviors to put the blame on you that you are just being “overly sensitive”. Lack of trust ruins authentic connection.
5. You are controlling.
Getting your way and being in charge might work really well for you as an individual. At the same time, it doesn’t always bode well for relationships. When you view situations as a power struggle — it means there’s always a loser and you’re working hard to be the winner. People may tell you that you are bossy or demanding and they get tired of being on the receiving end.
The problem is — most people don’t want to be controlled and will begin to rebel against you.
6. You avoid conflict.
People who are conflict-avoidant often think it’s a pathway to harmonious living. Instead, it creates imbalance. Communicating about relevant issues in relationships is a fundamental ingredient to an honest, authentic connection.
If you or your partner are constantly running away from dealing with conflict, this can be potentially harmful in the long run. Learning effective conflict resolution skills is key so you can deal with challenging conversations and experience stronger bonds.
7. You avoid being vulnerable.
Being open and honest with your partner is a key ingredient to emotional intimacy.
If you want to be truly known by another person — you must be vulnerable. If you feel closed, defensive, or avoidant, your relationship will suffer. Learning how to be more open with your partner in a safe and secure way is important. Vulnerability becomes a strength in relationships, not a liability.
Relationship therapy is not exclusive to couples in crisis. It’s for any couple who wants a more loving, enriching relationship instead of settling for a mediocre one.
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