Updated: Nov 6, 2018
Marriage is hard, and there will be rocky patches from time to time -- that’s totally normal. A licensed marriage therapist can save a marriage by giving the couple skills for communication, a safe place to have honest discourse, and a view of the relationship from another angle. So, when does fighting go from normal to a warning sign of an impending breakdown?
We all imagine that our marriage, whether current or in the future, will be perfect and we will live happily ever after. You probably have thought at one point or another, “I won’t be part of that scary statistic that half of marriages end in divorce! No siree, not me! Not MY marriage!” Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a great way to approach a relationship, but I think most of us can admit, it’s not totally realistic. I strongly believe that we can all grow and evolve as people and spouses over our lifetimes and one of the wonderful ways to do so is to work with a marriage therapist.
Therapists give us skills for success and help us to see the patterns in our lives that we can’t recognize from the inside. Licensed marriage therapists also help us function more effectively in relationships and can act as a mediator when there is a breakdown in communication.
There are many reasons to work with a marriage therapist, even in the happiest of times, but I want you to be aware of some specific “warning signs” in a relationship that can show that you are on the road to a breakdown or, even worse, a breakup. A marriage therapist can be the detour on this road that turns the car toward a happier future. I have seen marriage therapists, quite literally, save marriages that otherwise were on the road to ruin. I have worked with many individuals and couples in a therapy setting, which has helped me gain a better understanding of why some relationships are successful and why some fail. Additionally, I have been married for 17 years, so I know firsthand the challenges and joys that come with deep intimacy. My goal is not to scare you or to make you feel shame or guilt if you identify with any (or even all!) of these warning sign. The truth is, marriage is hard -- and that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. A marriage takes work, and unfortunately, I’ve seen too many couples who fail to put the necessary time into nurturing the relationship.
Read on to see if you need to make an appointment with a licensed marriage therapist!
# 1 You are dreading the moment that your spouse comes home (and you can't wait for him/her to leave again)
There is no doubt that you will have moments when you wish your partner would give you some space to breathe or some time to be alone. I think the majority of adults I know crave periods of alone time. Alternately, if you find that this is MOST of the time, you might want to examine what is causing those feelings. Would you rather be alone? Would you rather be with someone else? Is there something bothering you that you haven’t voiced, and thus are feeling like you haven’t been allowed to be self-expressed? Do you feel stifled, like you are losing your identity? Perhaps you have had these feelings, but you haven’t stopped to really ponder what they mean. If the sound of their key in the door causes an intense emotional reaction, it is time to figure out why and how to fix it.
# 2 You are bored in your marriage
Sure, your marriage will be boring from time to time. The excitement of the honeymoon phase definitely doesn't last forever, and it’s easy to get in a rut of eating takeout from the same restaurant while watching the same show in your same apartment with your same person. There will be times when you need to shake things up, do something exciting, and spice up your marriage. What if you have tried many tactics and attempted all the “exciting, spicy” things you can think of and you are still bored? Let’s take it one step further and say you’ve shared these feelings with your partner that you need his/her help in shaking things up. One of the most frustrating things in a marriage is not being on the same page. As two separate human beings, this is bound to happen from time to time, but you should never feel invalidated by your feelings. If you are craving something that your partner doesn’t seem to be able to provide, a third party can help you get back to being on the same page. If you feel like you are in a rut and need some strategies on how to get out, a therapist can help you come up with a plan to break the cycle of boredom.
#3 You are not happy with your sex life, or lack thereof
A distressed couple in bed, not facing each other.
Sex. In the beginning it’s fireworks and passion and can’t-wait-to-get-home-from-the-restaurant-and-tear-each-others'-clothes-off! Flash forward to years down the road and between kids, jobs, self-esteem issues, and the aforementioned boredom, keeping things sexy can be very challenging. As someone who loves to talk about sex with both my clients and friends, I often hear about marriages that suffer because of the lack of sex. This week, my friend was telling me about how she pretends to be asleep when her husband asks for sex because she is too tired after putting the kids to sleep. Sure, it is understandable that when you have young children and you dedicate your day to taking care of them, you will naturally have less energy for sex, but if you can’t remember the last time or if you or your partner’s sexual needs are not getting met, it is time for an expert. It is such a common