8 Signs That It’s Time to Go to Couples Counseling

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Marta Syrko couple by the beach
Photo: Courtesy of @MartaSyrko

Marriage is hard work. And anyone who tells you otherwise has probably not been married – or married long enough. If, however, you believe that anything worth having is worth fighting for, you might want to consider couples counseling. Here are eight signs that it’s time to seek the help of a professional.


You’re no longer interested in getting to know each other.

A key ingredient of what first ignites the spark in any relationship is the intrigue of getting to know each other – the likes, the dislikes, the aspirations, the insecurities, the “everything”. Once the relationship progresses further, there tends to be a feeling that we know everything there is to know about a partner and the intrigue dies out. However, it is important to recognize that, as time passes, we evolve as individuals in reaction to our environment and the changes in our lives. As such, if the intrigue of understanding and continuing to get to know your partner starts to fade, it begins to crumble the most foundational level of the relationship.


Contempt and criticism have replaced fondness and admiration.

A healthy romantic relationship requires there to be a 5:1 ratio for positive to negative feedback received from a partner. What that implies is that we need to make our partner feel five times more appreciated for the amount that we criticize them. If you find that your admiration and fondness for your partner are being replaced by criticisms, complaints, and put-downs, this is a big red flag to look out for.


You’re turning away from instead of turning towards each other.

In a successful relationship, a romantic partner is someone that we make bids of connection to, freely and confidently, because we know that they will respond by turning towards us as well. However, if our bids are responded to with dismissal or misunderstanding or, worst of all, if they are ignored, we stop turning towards our partner for both significant and trivial matters and begin relying on friends or ourselves instead. This can be very detrimental to the relationship.


You have a negative view of him.

Another factor that can have a significant impact on making or breaking the relationship is the perspective or views you hold about your partner and his actions. In other words, do you still give him the “benefit of the doubt”? Or have you been through enough disappointment that you jump to the most negative conclusion about him whenever he upsets you? Having a negative perspective towards your partner can be very dangerous because it makes you perceive everything he does in a negative light, even if that is not his intention.


Trust is declining in your relationship.

Feeling like you are unable to fully rely on your partner and that you cannot count on him is a significant red flag. When you feel like your partner is not faithful to you and you do not trust yourself to be his priority, that is also a significant red flag. Finally, if you feel that you cannot be your real authentic self with your partner without the fear of being judged by him and cannot go to him with your deepest feelings for fear of them being dismissed, that is the most significant of red flags. All three of these – vulnerability, reliability, and loyalty – are important aspects of trust that need to remain intact in a relationship.


You’ve checked out of your relationship mentally.

Important questions to ask yourself are: Am I still emotionally invested in the relationship? Even though I’m not actually divorced from this person, am I mentally divorced from him? Many couples go about their day-to-day lives not realizing that they have started living parallel lives. Their routine perhaps does not allow for the focus to be on their marriage. However, if you find that you have begun to mentally check out of the relationship and focus on your job or your children instead, you should seek help from a counselor.


You keep having escalated arguments that never get resolved.

Research has shown that around 69 percent of issues in a relationship are gridlocked, which means that there is no solution to the problem. However, how a couple navigates these issues is of importance. If you find that you and your partner hurt each other emotionally every time that you try to resolve major differences, you may notice that it causes even minor discussions to escalate. This may be a warning sign. Alternatively, if one partner resentfully agrees to “give in” or “compromise” on a non-negotiable matter, that is yet another warning sign because this brews resentment for years and the issue never really gets resolved.


You’re trying to reconcile different value systems.

It may be commonly believed that you choose your partner based on similarities of likes, dislikes, interests, and, most importantly, value systems. However, if over a period of time you begin to realize that you and your partner hold differing values, that may cause disappointment, shock, as well as a resigning of interest. It is really important to note that a relationship does not fail due to differing value systems; it fails when individuals stop trying to reconcile these differences due to their belief that their partner – or “soulmate” – should have the same values and beliefs as them. What matters significantly is how couples value each other’s beliefs and attempt to make each other’s goals and dreams come true. If this aspect of your relationship is troubled, it is definitely a good time to see a professional to help you through succeeding in this fundamentally important part of your relationship.

Dr. Sheetal Kini is a clinical psychologist specializing in couples therapy at The Lighthouse in Dubai.