Relationships have highs and lows. They ebb and flow. You don’t need a therapist every time the tide recedes. Indeed, you’ve probably learned to wait patiently for equilibrium to be restored. And, when waiting it out isn’t an option, you’ve probably learned how to work it out.
But what if you can’t work it out? And what if you’ve been waiting for “better days” for far too long? Here are some signs your relationship might benefit from couples therapy.Photo: iStockphoto
Here we go again. You have the same argument again and again. It starts innocently enough but inevitably ends in a rehashing of the same sodden script. You are locked in a vicious two-step — frequently a dance in which one of you blames and the other defends, one advances and one retreats (something marriage guru Sue Johnson calls the "protest polka").
A therapist will help you uncover root causes — the vulnerabilities that are your real triggers — and break the deadlock.
Read more: 5 good ways to argue>
You are in full retreat. You may both be aware that there are serious fractures in the relationship, but no one’s saying anything. The deadly quiet masks deep disquietude and complete discouragement.
A therapist will offer encouragement. Indeed, the word "courage" comes from the Latin root "cour," or heart. So, to "encourage" literally means to “find heart.” How apt.
Sex? What’s that? A lack of emotional intimacy has led to a lack of physical intimacy. She pretends she’s asleep when he crawls in beside her, and he’s stopped caring about the pretense.
Sex (or lack thereof) is a barometre of emotional health. Its lack tells a therapist that intimacy is missing, or that sex has become a tool of power or revenge in a broken marriage. She’ll help restore intimacy and rebalance power dynamics.
Read more: Sexless marriage>
Your every exchange is marked by acrimony and sarcasm — “hurt tied up with a bow,” as my friend and co-therapist Alyson Schafer calls it. You find fault in everything, and so does he. There’s no slack cut, no benefit of the doubt granted. Kindness has officially left the relationship, and it’s taken your sense of humour with it.
Nitpicking and scorekeeping are signs of disconnection. You have lost faith in the other’s love, appreciation and commitment. A therapist will help you reconnect and refocus on the big things, the things that really matter, so that you won’t need to sweat the small stuff.
You are suffering from what I call "marriage malaise." Nothing’s really broken, but still you feel you need a fix. You’ve become roommates; the love is stale.
For many, couples therapy is a tonic; it’s the tune-up that makes your relationship hum. Maybe you learn a few new tricks, or maybe the simple commitment of an hour each week will put the spring back in your two-step.
Every relationship has rough patches. But when the solutions that usually work just don’t, you should get some help.
A therapist will not only give you some fresh ideas, but she’ll also help you hear each other in new ways. Let’s face it: We can all grow partner-deaf — we stop seeing and hearing our loved one just because we’ve seen and heard it all before. Counselling will help you learn to listen on a deeper level, and hear even the unspoken. That’s marriage magic.