720.370.1800 - Intl 844.331.1993
When Do You Need Marriage Counseling? 8 Ways To Tell

When Do You Need Marriage Counseling? 8 Ways To Tell

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is a marriage counselor, relationship coach, life coach and therapist with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness.

“Do We Need Marriage Counseling?”

Have you ever thought this to yourself? Maybe in the aftermath of a nasty fight, or another frustrating conversation? It’s also easy to talk yourself out of going to see a couples therapist, marriage counselor or relationship coach. It can be hard to tell what is normal relationship turbulence that will blow over on its own, and when more serious relationship problems are brewing under the surface that you may need professional help to resolve.

I think we can all agree that relationships take work. However, too often (particularly for long-term couples) it can be easy to take each other for granted, and pay attention to everything and everyone else besides each other. When relationships are set to autopilot for too long, over time they often go significantly off-course or sometimes even take a 90-degree nose-dive into the ground.

When your relationship is clearly in a significant crisis you know it’s time to get help and seek couples therapy or relationship coaching. However, if your relationship is not clearly in trouble, but rather is in the process of going off course, it can be hard to say, “This is it. We need to talk to a marriage counselor.” 

The problem is this: Relationships that are still mostly good are much easier to repair and restore than seriously damaged relationships where trust and goodwill have been lost. Marriage counselor and couples and family researcher Dr. John Gottman has found that, on average, divorcing couples waited for an average of six years after the onset of their relationship problems to get help for their marriage. Often, sadly, by the time they do, it’s too late. [Check out “How to Stop a Divorce and Save Your Marriage“]

On the other hand, pro-active, committed couples who care about their relationship are alert to the early warning signs that their relationships are headed in the wrong direction. The happiest, healthiest, and strongest couples are the ones that get into marriage counseling or couples therapy early, because they stop budding relationship problems in their tracks.

I think of relationship coaching or couples therapy as being proactive versus reactive. The one thing that I have found to be consistently true is that it is much easier to elevate an already healthy relationship than to try to save one that is floundering, There are a variety of reasons why relationship coaching would be beneficial but all of them support the goal of enhancing what you already have.

Here are eight early warning signs that your relationship is headed for trouble, and it’s time to talk to a marriage counselor:

You Struggle to Communicate With Your Partner

Communication is the number one reason people seek out marriage counseling or relationship coaching. People have different communications styles. Often couples have unintentional miscommunication because they have a fundamentally different way of communicating. While one person may be speaking from a place of logic and reasoning the other person may talk straight from the heart. If this has been true for you, take heart: Marriage counseling or relationship coaching is the perfect way to learn basic communication tools and identify where your specific breakdowns in communication are happening so that you can change your patterns, and start understanding each other again.

You Feel Disconnected From Your Partner

While we all may wish to return to the feeling of total connection and engagement we had with our partner when we first started dating, it can feel challenging to maintain that with the ever competing demands for our time and attention between kids, work, and  life in general. If you are noticing a feeling of disconnection between you and your partner, couples counseling or relationship coaching not only provides you with the specific strategies to regain your connection but also puts aside uninterrupted time to focus on the relationship, which is beneficial in and of itself. [Learn More: Empathy: The Key to Connection]

You Have Difficulty Managing Conflict

The ability to “fight fair” is learned. Healthy conflict management is a skill-set. Couples often need a roadmap to navigate their conflict so that they can avoid the roadblocks, understand the unforeseen curves and learn how to get themselves to the desired destination safely (we’re talking emotional safety). Learning how to have healthy, productive conflict is one of the most common goals I see in my couples counseling practice.

One Or Both Of You Is Uncertain About Your Commitment to the Relationship

It is common for me to see a couple where one person, or sometimes both people, are no longer certain about their commitment to the relationship. Through couples therapy or relationship coaching we assess the level of engagement and what it would take to either move towards full commitment to the relationship or begin the process of separation. This is generally a short-term process and at the end of it we either refocus on rebuilding the commitment or giving you the tools to separate in as healthy a way as possible.

You Need to Rebuild Trust

Whether there has been an affair or some other form of infidelity, couples often come to marriage counseling or relationship coaching with the hopes of rebuilding trust. Rebuilding trust is a delicate process, requiring lots of support for both of you. Trust and emotional security are difficult to repair without the support of an expert couples counselor. However, when you work with a competent marriage counselor or relationships coach you can both learn how to manage anxiety, show each other you’re trust worthy, and rebuild your sense of emotional safety. [Learn more: How to Repair Your Relationship After Infidelity]

You Need Parenting Coaching

Maybe your relationship is solid but you’re having challenges with parenting. Many, many couples struggle to get on the same page around parenting. Parent coaching is an opportunity for you and your partner to get on the same page in your parenting relationship and to identify strategic, evidence-based practices to manage the difficulties you are having with your child(ren).

You’re Facing a Difficult Decision As a Couple

Many times, couples can get into “gridlock” around major life decisions. To have a baby or not, to move to a different town or not, to take a specific job or not, can all turn into binary black-and-white, either-or conflict between partners. Gridlock can be difficult to get through alone, but working through major life decisions with a great marriage counselor or couples therapist can help you find common ground. If you are coming up against a difficult decision and either you and your partner disagree or are struggling to talk about the decision altogether, relationship coaching will provide a safe space to begin talking through the options and giving you both the space to be heard and understood so that you can move forward, together. 

You’re Struggling With a Transition

Life transitions are hard. They often upend our world as we knew it and force us to adjust to a brand new set of circumstances. If you are going through some sort of challenging life transition, whether it be the birth of a child, job changes, moving, or empty nesting, relationship coaching is a perfect place to process the transition and learn the necessary skills to adjust and thrive in your new circumstances.

“But Who Has The Time For Marriage Counseling??”

Yes, for many couples, time can be the biggest obstacle to getting involved in marriage counseling, couples therapy, or relationship coaching. (The second is the myth that marriage counseling is expensive, which is addressed here.) But it is true that many busy, successful, professional couples — especially those with families — can struggle to get the planets to align to both be in the same place at the same time for couples counseling. What’s the answer? Virtual relationship coaching.

 

Coaching-Online-Couples-Therapy-Denver-Marriage-Counseling-Austin-TX-Marriage-Counseling-San-Francisco-Couples-Counseling

 

 

 

 

 

Make it Work, With Online Relationship Coaching

If you are living a full life without an excess of time, then virtual coaching is.a perfect way for you to address the challenges in your relationship now before your find yourself in a full-blown crisis. Virtual relationship coaching, aka, meeting for marriage counseling or couples therapy by online video, is not just a fantastic option for busy couples but also sometimes the only way to make it work. This is especially true if:

You Need Relationship Coaching But Are Living Abroad

There are several reasons why relationship coaching is a great option for people that live abroad. It can often be challenging to find access to mental health professionals in other countries. However, having the ability to do virtual relationship coaching internationally brings a highly trained couples coach right to your door. Living abroad can also be isolating. Coaching will provide you with additional support and also help you identify how you can build a support system within your new community, both individually and as a couple.

You Need Couples Counseling in a Long-Distance Relationship 

If you and your partner live in different towns, states, countries and aren’t in the same place often, virtual coaching for long-distance relationships may truly be your only option to get help for your relationship. It is common for me to work with a long-distance couple via a three-way video conference. Don’t think that being in a long distance relationship rules you out from getting help. [Listen to “How to Make Long Distance Work” on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast for some great advice about how to have a fantastic long-distance relationship].

I hope this information helps you decide if you need marriage counseling, and if so, about all your options for getting your relationship the help it deserves.

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

How Do I Communicate With a Husband Who Won’t Talk?

“He tells me whatever I want to hear so that we can stop talking about it as soon as possible,” Mary says, huffily, arranging the pillows of the Marriage Counseling Couch behind her. “I bring up anything, and he immediately gets defensive. It’s impossible to get him to talk about his feelings. It’s like talking to a wall.” She goes on. “If I really, really push it and go after him sometimes he’ll react and we’ll finally address something, but it’s like I have to totally freak out to get him to go there with me. It’s so frustrating. I don’t want to be that person, but I feel like it’s the only way to get him to listen.

Can you relate to what Mary is saying? If so, you’re not alone. It’s incredibly common to have one person in a relationship shutting down during conflict, which increases the frustration and loneliness (and often the volume) of the other. You might be tempted to think that this is a “man thing.” Not true: a significant portion of relationships have women who withdraw in tense moments, and male partners who pursue. This dynamic also happens in same sex relationships with both men and women.

Whether you’re trying to get through to your guy or your girl it can feel like the harder you try to communicate, the harder they try to avoid. Sometimes they defend themselves — invalidating what you’re saying in the process — and sometimes they simply refuse to participate in the conversation.

All you want to do is for them to listen to you. Hear you. Respond to you. But whenever you try to communicate, they clamp down like a clam under assault. You try harder: Raising the volume, raising the intensity, and getting more passionate. But the harder you try to connect, the harder they work to block you.

If this communication style turns into a pattern, you might stop believing that you’ll ever get though. You might eventually give up on trying to connect. And that is a very serious problem. Because relationships fail when people stop believing that their partner can be who they want or need them to be.

Here are some new ideas to consider if you want to get your withdrawn partner to open up:

1) Stop Being Scary

I say this a bit humorously, but seriously: It’s often the case that “pursuing” partners can get… intense. (I know I certainly can when I’m not able to get my point across). And it’s totally understandable — when you’re feeling frustrated, shut out, unheard, and uncared for it hurts. It’s the most natural thing in the world to get more intense and “passionate” in efforts to make yourself be heard. But consider how you may appear when you get that way.

It may be difficult for others to come towards you, and maintain soft, caring feelings about you, or fully appreciate your needs when you’re yelling at them. Interacting with obviously angry people feels threatening. The louder you get, the less people can hear you. Take a breath, tone it down, and you’ll get better results.

[tweetthis]The louder you get, the less people can hear you[/tweetthis]

2) Practice Vulnerability

Help your partner move towards you by allowing them to see your pain. Dig under the anger and connect with the hurt or fear that is fueling it. When you can express to your partner that you are feeling lonely and miss them, that you are feeling overwhelmed and need their help, or that you’re feeling frightened and need to know that they care — they will see you as softer and more approachable. It mobilizes their love for you, rather than their survival instinct.

3) Be Diplomatic

People like to be praised. Focus on the positive exceptions, and encourage more of what you want. If you must address something you don’t like, sandwich it in at least two positive comments and make sure it’s a “request” and not a “criticism.” Does this skill feel challenging when you’re angry? Consider your options when you’re feeling annoyed that your partner is checking out and not following through with household tasks (for example):

  • Option A: “I need to tell you want an inconsiderate a**hole you are, and I want you to sit here and agree with me.”  [Not going to end well.]
  • Option B: “I really appreciate everything you do around here, and I especially liked the way you took out the trash this morning. Would you mind helping me with dinner tonight too? That way we’ll have more time to hang out tonight. I like it when we can just enjoy each other and relax in the evenings.”

Which option would go over better with you?

4) Focus on Solutions

Grinding away at complaints about things you don’t like makes people feel overwhelmed, and defensive. When you get clear about what you DO want before coming into a conversation, and ask for that in a positive way your partner will be much better able to hear you. Furthermore, when they know what you want, they can give it to you.

5) Get Support

Sometimes, no matter how kind and gentle you are with your partner, they will still shut down, avoid and defend. This is especially true if a negative cycle has overtaken your relationship. Even if you are changing, they still expect you to be the same (and react to you accordingly).

It may also be the case that they are engaging in old, entrenched ways of relating that existed long before you came along. If you suspect that either of these things are happening, it may be wise to get both of you in front of a good marriage counselor or relationship coach who can help you untangle the impact of past relationship patterns, and focus on how to relate in a healthy way going forward.

I hope these ideas help you reconnect, if you’re in a relationship with someone who avoids conflict, and shuts down. For more detailed, in-depth advice on how to communicate with a withdrawn partner and get things back on track, check out my communication podcasts:

• Improve The Communication in Your Relationship

• How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner (Without Pushing Them Further Away)

How to Communicate With a Partner Who is Upset (This one can really help your withdrawn partner understand YOU, and what happens to you emotionally when they refuse to talk or engage with you).

Wishing you all the best on your journey of growth together…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Free Advice From a Marriage Counselor: Get Your Relationship Back on Track, Today

Free Advice From a Marriage Counselor: Get Your Relationship Back on Track, Today

Real Help For Your Relationship

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, whether at my office in Denver or with online marriage counseling clients I see all over the world through online video, I often meet with couples who love each other but who want to make their relationship better. They want to release frustration and resentment. They want better communication. They want things to feel easier, and happier between them. They want to enjoy each other again.

Sometimes, the couples we see for marriage counseling here at Growing Self are surprised to learn that the two  “magic ingredients” that can help them create the joyful, effortless partnership they crave are already right under their nose. In fact, there are really just two simple strategies that anyone can do, anytime, to change their relationship for the better. While these things seem small and simple, in practice they can mean the difference between a thriving, happy relationship, or a marriage that ends tragically.

Because I so passionately believe that YOU deserve to be happy and fulfilled in your relationship, I’m sharing the “two big secrets” with you, in hopes that it helps you make positive changes to your relationship — today.

With love and respect,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

The Two Keys To An Amazing Relationship: Watch Now

Advice From a Marriage Counselor: Signs Your Relationship is Failing

Advice From a Marriage Counselor: Signs Your Relationship is Failing

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Is Your Marriage On The Rocks?

“Is this just a fight? Or are we really in trouble?” Those are questions that we’ve all wondered after a yucky feeling argument with our partners. The truth is that all relationships have conflict, and “rough patches.” Relationships grow and evolve, and when couples work through their differences constructively it brings them closer together. That’s our marriage counseling philosophy, here at Growing Self. I genuinely believe that weathering tough times IS the path of greater intimacy and emotional depth in a relationship, and every conflict is an opportunity for connection. Really. (I’m saying that as both a marriage counselor and as a person who’s been married for practically 20 years).

However.

There are some kinds of interactions and patterns that, when present in a marriage, must absolutely be snuffed out… and fast. If you don’t attend to negative relationship patterns early on, they can take over a relationship and turn it into a seething toxic nest of anxiety, resentment, hurt feelings, anger and disconnection. If not remedied, the last stop on this sad train is divorce (or bitter, lonely cohabitation).

You don’t want that. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m talking about telltale signs that your marriage is getting into trouble and things that you can do to pull it back from the brink.

I sincerely hope that this advice helps you.

All the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Comments? Questions? Success Stories? Please share in the comments section below…

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Signs Your Relationship is Failing: Listen Now

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Enjoy the Podcast?

Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

iTunes

Stitcher

Google Play

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

Help For Your Relationship

I’ve spent a decade as a Denver marriage counselor — and I’ve been married for nearly twenty years myself. I’ve learned a thing or two about relationships, along the way. I frequently have people email me with various relationship dilemmas, and I’ve had listeners of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast from all over the world get in touch with me regarding their relationship questions. I thought I’d address a few of them on today’s podcast.

Advice From A Marriage Counselor: Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

“How do I bring up delicate topics with my partner? (Like their bad breath, or their weight?)”

“What do I do if I don’t like my partner’s friends?”

• “How important is it for me to feel ‘butterflies’ for my partner? If I don’t, is there a problem?”

• “How fast should relationships move, in the beginning?”

• “What’s a warning sign of a toxic relationship?”

• “What do I do if I want to move forward and get married or have children, but my partner doesn’t?”

I’ll be discussing all these questions, and more, on today’s episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

Are there questions that you have? Let me know, either in the comments below or click here to contact me through my website. I’ll be glad to answer them in an article, on an upcoming podcast!

xo, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Listen Now: Your Relationship Questions, Answered

(Music Credits: The Last Shadow Puppets, “My Mistakes Were Made For You.”)

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching