According to research by the renowned couples therapists at The Gottman Institute, partners wait an average of six years before getting help for marital problems. For many, this is because going to relationship counseling signals defeat. They wait for the major blowout fight, after which it’s impossible to ignore that they need help. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, the sooner people seek couples therapy, the better chance they’re giving their relationship. Here are some key indicators that now may be a good time to schedule an appointment.
1. Near-Constant Bickering
A healthy relationship often involves some arguing. It’s not inherently a bad thing to get a little heated over things you care about (as long as you have a healthy repair later on!) However, if you find yourselves bickering over small issues often, it’s likely a sign that you guys are in what we call negative sentiment override. This means that so many negative interactions have built up between you that it’s hard to give each other the benefit of the doubt. You get defensive easily because you assume your partner doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Couples therapy can help you find the source of the resentment and increase the positive interactions between you.
2. You’re not on the same page.
I often liken relationships to Venn diagrams. You guys are your own individual circles with some overlap in the middle, and it’s a very active process to keep that overlap well-balanced. Sometimes one person in a relationship may feel they need more from the other– emotional support, help around the house, or maybe even just patience or encouragement. Sometimes couples can get divided on important issues like in-laws, parenting, or politics. Couples therapy can help you guys maintain your individuality while respecting your partner’s as well.
The Gottmans say that 2/3 of problems in marriage are “unsolvable,” meaning that they are not easily changed by things within the couple’s control. It’s difficult to change one’s views on money. The in-laws will have their feelings about who their child chooses to spend their life with. But what matters is how you guys operate around those issues. Do you have enough positivity to stay out of negative sentiment override? Do you have enough shared meaning (overlap) that the differences can sometimes fall away? Relationship counseling can help you answer those questions.
3. Your partner suggested it
It is very easy to get defensive at the mention of couples therapy, especially if you’re not ready to admit that there is a bigger problem than you can handle on your own. In fact, it’s very common that one partner will notice/acknowledge it before the other. If your partner suggests that you guys get outside help, try to keep in mind that this means they’re willing to put in the work. They love you enough to put themselves out there. That is a testament to your strength; it’s not a defeat.
4. You’re going through a major change
Context is an extremely important part of the work here at Prologue, whether you’re doing individual, family, or couples therapy. That is because external pressures and stressors can have a significant impact on a relationship. It can be a relational change like getting engaged, buying a home together, or bringing a baby home. Or we could be talking about individual stressors like job transitions or grief and loss. But all of these things change the way we interact with our loved ones. Sometimes it takes a neutral third party to help you see outside the pain and recalibrate your relationship so it provides support rather than more friction.
5. You’d like a Healthier Relationship
At the end of the day, relationships don’t need to have a glaring, identifiable problem to benefit from therapy. Again, the sooner you start, the better. If you begin relationship counseling before resentment has built, or you feel a need to protect yourself more than the relationship, it will be easier to communicate. You’re more equipped to give the benefit of the doubt. And of course, you’ll have more hope.
Prologue Therapy & Relationship Counseling is here for all your couples therapy needs.
Conveniently located in Flemington, NJ, and online, Prologue’s team of couples therapists is equipped to meet you where you are. Book your first appointment with one of our talented professionals today