Whether you got married when you and your spouse were young or you each led separate adult lives for a while, marriage is hard work. Anyone who claims differently might just not have hit any life hurdles with their significant other yet and might not realize that they need relationship help.
Some of us grew up not seeing our parents argue or fight. Others of us learned that fighting and yelling were “normal.” Whichever spectrum your family of origin tended toward, you may be leaning more in that direction in your relationship if you have not considered its impact on your marriage.
4 Signs You May Need Relationship Help
We all have spats and disagreements with our spouses. But how do you know when it is time to get relationship help?
1. You cannot remember the last time you looked at your spouse with love or admiration in your heart.
It’s easy to “agree on the outside” with your spouse – especially if you have opposite work schedules, if your spouse travels, or if you’re at a stage in parenting where children occupy the bulk of your energy. To “agree on the outside” is to move through the motions, without conflict, without communicating unless necessary for everyday routines, and not sharing deep emotions.
To “agree on the outside” may look fine. You might even be able to convince yourself that the marriage is strong and sturdy. However, if it has been a long time since you were able to look across the table at your spouse with love and admiration, it may be helpful to explore why. Attempting a journey of self-exploration can be scary without a guide. That is why getting help for yourself may be a good first step for your relationship.
Many falsely believe that counseling is only for “the troubled” among us or those who are in despair. Yet healthy, emotionally intelligent people are those who regularly explore their underlying motives, emotions, and thoughts – thinking about how they’re thinking – and take steps to ask for help where needed.
It isn’t a sign of weakness to reach out to a trained counselor. The Bible tells us it’s a sign of wisdom: “…that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16). God cares about our internal health as much as our external health.
2. When you talk with your spouse, you both struggle to come to resolutions repeatedly.
Approaching a conflict doesn’t feel warm and fuzzy for most people. So, it’s normal to want to avoid looking at hurts or places where we have hurt our spouse. But if we regularly struggle to come to a mutual resolution during arguments with our spouse, it may be time to get outside help.
Rehashing the same argument – or what feels like the same argument – repeatedly, isn’t healthy. It can feel like digging into an old wound to check that it will still bleed if picked at long enough. Of course, a physician would not tell a patient to dig into an old wound. Likewise, a counselor can also advise a couple on how to address past hurts in a mutually safe, healthy way – so that the couple thrives when they approach conflict in the future.
3. Either you or your spouse can see something is wrong, but together, you can’t conclude how to overcome the issue.
Sometimes when we’ve lived life long enough with another person, we go through hills and valleys of which we aren’t necessarily aware. It’s easy to deal with our hurdles in different ways and then, later, those coping mechanisms aren’t enough. This can cause stress in a relationship that seems to “come out of nowhere.”
It isn’t because one of the people in the relationship is wrong necessarily, but it can be that you each have dealt with life’s obstacles differently. And those different ways of managing stress or hardship can hurt the other person unintentionally.
Here is an example: A husband and wife struggle to get pregnant with their second child. They are trying to talk with one another through the process, but the husband tends to shrug it off, saying, “It will happen. We just need to give it time.”
But for the wife in this scenario, his avoidance may be misconstrued as a lack of compassion. Over time, this misperception on the wife’s part can cause resentment to build up when her husband is struggling just as much as she is – but he avoids his emotions because it’s easier.
Seeking outside help can give us the outside perspective we need to see our spouse and ourselves authentically. A trained counselor can offer relationship help by sifting through the intended and unintended consequences of how we communicate with our spouses.
Even the best communicators will say something unintentionally by the way they squared their shoulders, clear their voices, or glance to the side. Because we all communicate mostly through our nonverbal cues, a trained counselor can usually help us recognize what our actions are “saying” long before we can see it ourselves.
4. Either you or your spouse has given up on the possibility of change.
You’ve heard the adage that you can’t change people, only your responses to them. While it is true that we cannot make someone act or think differently, it is false to believe a person cannot change or will never change.
If that’s where you are, it may be time to find relationship help with a trained counselor. When you’re at the point of giving up, you are essentially admitting that the life you want to be living is out of reach. Even if you have unrealistic expectations toward your spouse or circumstances, giving up isn’t the answer. Communication is.
Perhaps you are consenting to what – on all accounts – appears to be a loveless marriage from your point of view. Even if your spouse isn’t ready to seek help, you can.
Let a trained counselor into the challenges and hardships of how your relationship is impacting you. As you open up and recognize a safe place to talk about what’s troubling in your relationship, over time you will learn healthy ways of managing life, stress, and how to be present in your current relationship.
Even if your spouse doesn’t want to participate, you can still reap the benefits of learning, seeing your spouse through God’s eyes, and recognizing where your own heart is. Are you ready for relationship help? We have trained counselors who specialize in marital therapy.
“On the Rocks”, Courtesy of Vera Arsic, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Sitting on the Sidewalk”, Courtesy of Odonata Welnesscenter, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Argument”, Courtesy of RODNAE Productions, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Cuddling”, Courtesy of Gustavo Fring, Unsplash.com, CC0 License