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5 Signs you need marriage counseling … even if your marriage isn’t in crisis

Couple Fighting
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Talking to an objective, qualified third party could bring your marriage from "just okay" to "great."

Tom and Cecilia have been married for eight years and have three children with another one on the way. They are Christians and have a relatively good marriage, but routinely fight over a two or three issues, typically without resolution. For instance, Cecilia thinks the way Tom disciplines is over the top and that he’s too strict and demanding of the children. Tom, on the other hand, believes Cecilia is too indulgent with the kids, too ready to pacify their whims.

The couple also has different ideas about money. Tom is a planner and a saver and Cecilia — while she willingly supports curbing spending to stay within budget — believes it’s okay to splurge on a nice dinner or new clothes. Although Tom and Cecilia possess an overall satisfaction with their life together, whenever these few issues arise, each leaves the conversation frustrated and dissatisfied.

Tom and Cecilia are not on the brink of divorce and therefore they don’t think counseling would be particularly helpful. They see outside help as reserved for couples in real danger of breaking up. However, their refusal to seek help even for issues that don’t seem that big prevents deeper intimacy and growth as a couple.

A trained third party mediator would quickly help Tom and Cecilia facilitate discussion and create resolutions to their problems, but both are reticent to seek one out. Consequently, they — and many good Christian couples like them — try to slog out their problems on their own, even though they might benefit from a safe place to share feelings, experience understanding, and develop game plans.

So, what are some signs you and your partner, even if you have only a few hot button issues, might benefit from a third party moderator? Here are a few:

You avoid addressing important topics because the conversation only leads to conflict, discouragement, and alienation.

There are a few issues that are never satisfactorily resolved between the two of you (i.e., how to handle in-laws, discipline, best way to educate the kids, money, sex, etc.).  

Or maybe you do regularly converse about a particular topic, but there is never any resolution to the problem.

Consequently, one or both of you feel stuck, frustrated, hopeless or unhappy about the conclusion. It’s possible to implore the help of a marriage counselor to assist in unpacking the issues around one particular topic so that you can both feel heard and satisfied.  

One or both of you came from homes with mental illness or addiction.

The coping skills we develop as children when surrounded by unhealthy behavior don’t go away. We carry them into our marriages and parenting and they negatively affect our interactions with others. If you suspect your coping skills may be working against you in marriage, you may want to talk to someone about it.

You have either stopped having sex or are not engaging in sexual intimacy as often as you’d like.

Perhaps one person is punishing another or one of the spouses feels so emotionally alienated they can’t even consider sexual intimacy. A healthy sex life often signals a healthy marriage and a decrease in sex — outside of certain times like illness, periodic abstinence, pregnancy or postpartum periods — might be a sign of interpersonal problems.   

When speaking with friends, you are critical of your spouse and have trouble articulating positive attributes, and/or can identify a number of things that annoy or sadden you about your spouse.

Or you carry around grudges, resentments, and can even remember negative statements made by the other for long periods of time.

There is a general sense of disconnectedness that permeates your daily interaction with your spouse.

You may not fight, but something is amiss. You feel that you can and should feel closer to the person you love and share your life with everyday.

If any of these things is true, seeking out an objective and qualified third party could bring your marriage from “just okay” to “great.” And what married couple doesn’t want that?

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Marriage
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