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4 Common Relationship Issues That Drive Couples To Seek Couples Counseling

4 Common Relationship Issues That Drive Couples To Seek Couples Counseling

Teena Evert is a licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed addictions counselor, and certified coach with Growing Self Counseling & Coaching.  She specializes in helping people live wholeheartedly, and create empowered lives and relationships. She can help you connect with your true self, and cultivate thriving relationships with others.

When Is It Time For Marriage Counseling?

If you’re in a committed relationship and experiencing issues with your spouse or significant other, you’re not alone. It’s very common to have challenges in your relationship from time-to-time, as there is no perfect relationship. With that said, it’s important to learn how to work through these relationship challenges as they come up, so they don’t grow into bigger issues later.

As a couples therapist and life coach, I’ve worked with hundreds of distressed couples who have come to me for support and guidance due to challenges in their relationship that they have not been able to resolve on their own. The good news is that many of these relationship issues are solvable.

In my experience there are four main challenges that drive couples to seek marriage counseling or couples therapy:

Needing to Be Heard, Understood, and Respected

The first is a desire to have more clarity about your needs and how to get them met within the relationship. Whether we are aware of them or not, we all have needs in a relationship. A sure sign that your needs aren’t being met in your relationship is irritation and frustration that often builds into chronic resentment.

Many people grew up believing that it wasn’t okay to have needs. As a result, they become hyper-focused on their partner’s needs to the point that they neglect their own. This pattern doesn’t lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment.

Therefore, getting clear about what you need in your relationship to feel loved and cared for is how you learn to express your emotional needs with one another. Understanding how to work in partnership in life, regarding simple daily tasks and expectations addresses the functional needs of a relationship. We need both our functional and emotional needs to be met in order for the relationship to be harmonious and resilient enough to survive challenging times.

Wanting to Be Closer To Your Partner

The second is wanting an emotional connection and greater intimacy with each other. Feeling out of sync and disconnected from your partner is what can break down the intimacy in a relationship. Your emotional connection is necessary to experience true intimacy with your partner. [Read: “How to Connect With Your Partner“]

Emotional intimacy allows your relationship to provide more of a sense of relaxation, expansion and joy, rather than a state of chronic stress, contraction and fear. If you get out of sync with your partner,  it’s essential that you learn how to get back into sync as quickly as possible, so that any missteps can be repaired and the confidence in your connection can be strengthened.

Working As a Team With Each Other

The third is how to work as a team to manage life stress that comes with aging parents, raising a family or becoming empty nesters. We are stronger when we work together as a team, rather than in opposition to one another. Being in opposition will only create more stress and friction in an already difficult situation.

Major transitions in life often lead to stress that will test our resilience. This is a time that not only requires strong communication skills, but also an ability to empathize and to put others immediate needs before your own. As I mentioned earlier, relationship needs are important, however managing certain life stressors particularly related to big life transitions, will also require us to make certain sacrifices that we often can’t anticipate or prepare for until they’re happening in the moment. Working together as a united front will help you successfully navigate and manage these inevitable life events.

Improving The Communication in Your Relationship

The fourth is ineffective communication and feeling a lack of support and understanding from one another. When we can’t communicate well with our partner we often feel misunderstood and there’s a lack of support that’s felt almost immediately. This can become not only exhausting over time, but we can also feel defeated inside.

This leads to feeling stuck, stagnant, and stressed, which does not serve to foster a close connection with your partner. Communication breakdown is the primary culprit to feeling discontent and inadequate in your ability to be happy or feel satisfied in your relationship. Communication problems to not get better on their own, and if communication issues do not get resolved the harmony in the relationship will suffer to the point where hostility is the norm.

Real Help For Your Relationship

I give my clients hope that these issues can be resolved, but I also let them know they must be willing to be responsible and accountable for their part in the challenge. It doesn’t have to take a long time to feel relief, but it does require both partners to prioritize their relationship and be open to learning and applying new relationship and life skills to improve their situation long-term.

If you are experiencing challenges in your relationship, I encourage you to seek professional couples therapy or marriage counseling sooner than later. Most of these issues can be resolved fairly quickly when you invest in the right support and have a strong desire to improve your relationship and the life you share together.

Warmly,

Teena Evert, M.A., LAC, LMFT

 

Advice From a Denver Marriage Counselor: Six Signs Your Relationship is in Trouble

Advice From a Denver Marriage Counselor: Six Signs Your Relationship is in Trouble

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 you know if you’re having normal relationship ups and downs, or that it’s time to call a marriage counselor?

After a decade as a Denver marriage counselor, and nearly two of being married myself, I’ve come to the conclusion that being in a relationship is a little like doing yoga: If it feels really easy all the time, you’re probably not doing it right. (Meaning that couples who never EVER fight are usually not talking about all things that they should be talking about.) Having a little friction, some differences of opinion, and yes — even conflict, is an entirely natural, normal and healthy part of the marriage / relationship experience.

However, there are some situations that are more concerning than others. There are dark patterns and cycles of negative reactivity that can take hold of your marriage in subtle ways, like toxic black mold that blooms unseen in the walls of your house — and that will likely get worse over time.

Unfortunately, there does come a point when it’s too late. Marriages can be broken beyond repair. When trust, empathy and commitment is damaged past a certain point, the best marriage counselor in the world cannot help you put the pieces back together again.

It’s therefore important to tell the difference between “normal relational friction” and more serious problems that require intervention. Here are six signs “toxic mold” is growing in your marriage, and that it’s time to get some professional help:

1. Resentments linger.

You talked about it, everybody said “Sorry” but deep down you don’t feel like the problem has been solved. You don’t feel heard, or fully understood. You still feel bad about what happened, and you don’t trust that it won’t happen again. When you’re filled with unresolved resentment and mistrust, it’s hard to feel like the loving person that you’d like to be towards your partner.

2. You can’t communicate productively.

Every time something comes up, voices get raised and it turns into a street fight — not a productive (if intense) conversation. You get mean with each other and intentionally try to hurt each other. It feels impossible to solve problems and hear each other, because one or both of you are either focused on “winning.” Or, disagreement leads to someone freaking out, shutting down, or falling apart instead of listening and communicating effectively.

3. You expect negative reactions from each other.

Your trust in the emotional safety of your relationship is eroding. You anticipate that your partner will get mad at you, or be mean to you, or will be emotionally unresponsive to you. You start to feel anxious about being around them, and feel like you’re walking on eggshells.

4. You’re not talking…. To each other.

If your best friend / mother / sister knows more about how you feel about your relationship than your partner does, that is a problem. While it’s much more comfortable to talk to a third party about your feelings, it doesn’t do anything to resolve the issues. If you think your partner “must know how you feel” because of all the non-verbal hints and things you’re doing to show them how you feel, but you’re not actually saying the words out loud, it is likely that you need the support of a marriage counselor to learn how to address problems directly, and productively.

5) The “Four Horsemen” are present.

Dr. John Gottman, a researcher in the field of marriage counseling, has done wonderful research into the dynamics of relationships. He is able to predict whether a marriage will fail by the presence of four specific behaviors that are so toxic he’s nicknamed them “The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse.” These are: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Avoidance. So if you feel like telling your partner why they are wrong for feeling the way they do, rolling your eyes, or leaving the room every time they talk, you need to get into marriage counseling — quick.

6) One person is loosing hope that things can change.

When relationships finally end, it is almost always because one person has lost hope that things can be better. They have tried to talk, tried to change, and tried to get their partner to understand them — sometimes for a very long time. It has not worked. At a certain point, they simply loose hope that their partner can love them in the way that they need to be loved. “It doesn’t matter anyway” are the lyrics to the funeral dirge of a marriage. If this is happening it is vital that you get into high quality marriage counseling before it’s too late to save your marriage.

If you’re reading these warning signs, and they feel familiar, don’t wait to get into marriage counseling. You CAN wait too long. If the trust and good will between you have eroded too far, the best marriage counselor in the world can’t help you put it back together again. But if you both still want to try, there is always hope.

— Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby