There are times in all relationships when things don’t run smoothly. Often, this is because people have conflicting expectations, are distracted with other issues, or have difficulty expressing what is on their minds in ways that other people can really hear and understand.
What are the symptoms?
When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek relationship counselling. Here are seven good reasons:
- Communication has become negative. Once communication has deteriorated, often it is hard to get it going back in the right direction. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the tone of the conversation. It is important to remember that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Negative communication can also include any communication that not only leads to hurt feelings but emotional or physical abuse, as well as nonverbal communication.
- When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair. Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to the therapy process and are being honest, the relationship may be salvaged. At the very least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.
- When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space.” When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counselling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the couple feels are important and they feel they just “co-exist,” this may be an indication that a skilled therapist can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back.
- When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences. Many couples say, “We know what’s wrong, but we just don’t know how to fix it.”. This is a perfect time to get a third party involved. If a couple is stuck, a skilled therapist may be able to get them moving in the right direction.
- When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings. Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, sometimes harmful behaviours. A skilled therapist can help the couple sort out negative feelings and find better ways to express them.
- When the only resolution appears to be separation. When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counselling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem is still there, but often avoided because time has passed.
- When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children. If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the children, it may help to involve an objective third party. Often couples believe that they are doing the right thing when staying together actually is detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if the couple is able to resolve the issue and move toward a positive, healthy relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved.
What are the therapies that can help?
Not all relationships or marriages are salvageable. In the process of relationship counselling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, relationship counselling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way. It is usually an option to have individual sessions and/or couple therapy.
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