With couples spending a lot of time together than ever before, tension could easily grow. Since we don’t know when the social gap will end, it ‘s certainly in your best interest to patch things up with your partner to ensure a happy environment at home. The chances are that both of you have a little more time on your hands, so now is the ideal time to revisit your relationship.
And while you may not be able to see a marriage counselor in person at the moment, virtual couple counseling is also a choice you should consider. Most experts recommend couples to engage proactively in couple counseling, or at the first sign that something is wrong.
Genesis Games, LMHC, says, “You don’t have to wait until you are reaching your breaking point to seek couples therapy. Couples therapy is most effective when preventive rather than reactive.”
There’s no shame in asking for some support, particularly if it’s going to save your marriage down the line. Alert signs can be difficult to find, so we have contacted relationship experts to compile a list of several sure-fire signs that you should seek marriage counseling.
Your partner isn’t listening.
When you feel like your partner is hearing you, but they don’t really listen to what you have to say, it’s a good indicator that it’s time for couple therapy. While you’ve been quarantined together, you’ve probably been talking more than usual — if you notice that your partner has started to tune you out or placate you instead of providing real support, there’s a problem.
“A lot of problems stem from how we communicate with our partners or, conversely, how we don’t communicate,” says Chris Leeth, PhD. “The overwhelming majority of problems I see boil down to a very clear issue, which is made very complicated by communication and then overshadowed by emotion.”
You’re forever stuck on the same issue.
If there is one sticking point that every conversation, argument, or discussion seems to end, it would be wise to book a session as soon as possible. “If you come back to the same initial hurt or wound no matter what the subject is, your negative dance becomes a pattern, and it becomes hard to break through and do something different,” explains Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT.
Therapist Rachel Elder refers to these recurring problems that keep coming up as gridlock issues. Elder feels “it is helpful to have a therapist navigate you through gridlock issues to help shift the conflict resolution patterns you are engaging in.”
Everything your partner does annoys you.
It can be hard to be locked in with someone for weeks to come, even though you love them. There are a few inconveniences here or there, so if you notice that your partner is always rubbing you the wrong way, no matter what they’re doing, you can reach out to a counselor.
“A very subversive sign that marriage counseling may be a good idea is if a person starts feeling resentful towards their partner,” says Leeth. But resentment can be tricky to identify. “Resentment creeps in very slowly. A sign that it may be seeping in is if you start getting annoyed easily (and consistently) with your partner,” he says.
And if you’re asked if you want to watch TV, have dinner together, or do something else as a couple, and your initial instinct is to sigh and wish you were doing something else, you ‘re probably in need of some outside assistance.
One of you doesn’t like how the other uses social media.
“For some couples, social media isn’t a problem at all,” explains Leeth. “This is usually because both individuals agree on the role, nature, and use of social media.” It seems like reaching out to exes has become a quarantine trend that could make social media a juicier topic.
If one person is not on board how the other person uses their social media, the relationship may become a major source of conflict. “One person may be OK with having exes on Facebook, while the other is not,” Leeth notes. “One person may think that social media is for close friends and family only, while the other is much more inclusive.”
The best approach here is to explore limits in marriage counseling, where professionals see this conflict all the time and can help accelerate the process of resolution.
Your relationship stunts your individual and collective growth.
The relationship can act as a growth support network, but when the relationship is limited, it can quickly become toxic. “Stunted growth is a clear indicator that couples need therapy to help them remove the old tangled roots and branches which aren’t life-sustaining, the ones that sometimes appear to be healthy, but are actually draining the life out of the healthy parts over time,” says life coach Hilary Porta.
If your partner doesn’t encourage you to reach for the stars, they’re limiting you.
You can’t stop fighting.
While constantly returning to the same problem is a sign of trouble, not being able to find common ground is an entirely different matter. You might be fighting for sports while you’re stuck inside, or maybe you didn’t know how much friction had arisen between the two of you until there was nowhere to run away— either way, endless conflict is concerning.
“If the couple keeps fighting but not about a singular issue—in other words, they are finding more things to argue about—then marriage counseling might be able to help figure out why there is so much turmoil, or if one or both people want to even continue with the relationship,” says Leeth. Allowing an impartial party to make diffuse arguments will help you find out the true cause of the conflict.
You never fight.
“Believe it or not, it’s a better sign when you are fighting with your spouse than when you’re cutting them off or shutting down. When you fight, it’s still a sign of engagement,” says therapist Lauren Cook. If you never fight with your partner, it may be a major problem, because it signifies your lack of concern about the relationship.
“When people become indifferent about a relationship, there are reasons that underlie that, and those issues need to be addressed if the relationship is going to survive and thrive,” says Robert Weiss, LCSW. Apathy may be the enemy of passion.
You’re not having sex.
“Sex is the glue that holds the relationship together through difficult times,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD, author of The Stress-Proof Brain. “While all couples go through occasional dry spells, a chronic lack of intimacy may be a signal that something is wrong in the relationship,” she notes.
If you find yourself hesitant to sex even in quarantine when there’s nothing else to do, that’s a matter of concern. A therapist may have some helpful tips about how to revitalize the flame and bring intimacy back to your life.
You think you might need it.
Spending more time together at home could have shed some light on things that you didn’t know existed. It’s best to recognize these problems and seek help as soon as possible, even if they don’t feel like a massive issue.
“I find that most couples arrive at counseling later than they should,” says Thompson. “Oftentimes couples think that coming to therapy is a huge sign that they are having major problems and that their relationship is a total failure. Perhaps they haven’t been together very long or feel they should be able to get through their challenges on their own.”
However, the sooner you go to therapy, the less repair work you have to do. So if you think you may need advice, just go and get it.
You’re thinking about getting married.
Indeed, premarital therapy is a really good idea. Turns out, there’s a reason many religions require therapy sessions before tying the knot. If you plan to get engaged soon or your marriage has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, it would be better to use this time to start some couple therapy sessions together to give your relationship a strong foundation.
“Pre-marital therapy can be especially helpful,” says Thompson. “It helps each partner acclimate to the idea of getting married, as well as define what their intentions are and what they envision their life being like.”
You are growing apart.
There’s nothing like never-ending quality time with your partner to make you realize that you don’t have anything in common. Paulette Sherman, PsyD, host of The Love Psychologist podcast and author of Marriage and the Law of Attraction, says couples should seek therapy if they feel they “have grown apart and do not know if they can create a shared vision they are excited about in the future.”
This feeling sometimes precedes a couple looking for divorce, but if they seek support, they have the opportunity to rebuild their relationship.
The “honeymoon phase” has ended.
When couples start dating— and directly after their marriage — they’re in love with each other, and it feels like nothing could go wrong. But this sweet, simple time comes to an end, maybe more quickly in quarantine. If this change is sudden or difficult for you as a couple, you will definitely benefit from some outside assistance.
Sherman explains that once couples leave the “in love” or courtship phase of their relationship, they may need to learn some new skills as they begin to live together, and more important issues begin cropping up. She notes that if a couple starts to feel frustrated or disillusioned, this is a major indication that they should be in couple counseling.
You don’t know how to communicate with your partner.
Communication is crucial to a healthy relationship, so if you don’t know how to talk to your partner, you may be in troubled waters. Joy Lere, PsyD, urges couples to seek help if “you find yourself holding onto thoughts, feelings, and reactions that you don’t know how to verbalize or are afraid to share.”
You have an ideological difference.
You may have begun on the same page and progressed gradually over time, or maybe you haven’t addressed the main topic until you’ve been married for a couple of years. Either way, if you’re on the opposite ends of a spectrum, you may need an outside opinion to help you meet in the middle.
“When there has become an ideological difference in a relationship that is preventing it from moving forward (i.e. finances, marriage, kids, retirement, etc.),” couples could benefit from therapy, according to Cassandra Lenza, LCSW.
You find yourself focusing more on the negative than on the positive.
There’s a lot of negative things happening in the world these days — your relationship shouldn’t be one of them. It’s possible that at the beginning of the relationship, everything you enjoyed about your partner greatly overcame their more questionable qualities, for better or worse, but this feeling may have changed over the years.
Elder suggests couples sign up for therapy “when they find themselves reflecting more on negative qualities and experiences than positive qualities and experiences.” John Gottman highlights the importance of having five positive experiences for one negative relationship experience.
Elder points out that “when you have more negative experiences, you will start to see your partner in a negative light and potentially respond negatively towards them.”