How to Know if You Need a Marriage Counselor

Three Methods:Thinking about Your Overall RelationshipDealing with Crises and ConflictsAddressing Communication Issues

Many people believe that relationships should be easy and that problems can be easily resolved, but marriage often takes considerable work. Marriage counseling is one way to deal with that work, and it’s a good option if you and your partner don’t seem to be managing your relationship well on your own. Don’t wait until your relationship reaches a crisis point. If you think you may need a marriage counselor, start with Step 1.

Part 1
Thinking about Your Overall Relationship

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    Admit that you have a problem. Some people let their relationships deteriorate because they are unwilling to admit to themselves – or to their partners – that they feel bored, dissatisfied, or misunderstood. Admitting that your marriage needs work is the first step to resolving the problem.
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    Think about your own feelings. Before you try to fix your relationship, you need to take a look at your own thoughts and feelings. Although it may be painful, you must ask yourself if you truly love your spouse. If you don’t – and, furthermore, you don’t think you’ll ever be able to recover those feelings – then saving your marriage may be a pointless endeavor.
    • If you feel like you have stopped caring about your partner, ask yourself whether this might be a defensive mechanism. Sometimes, when you feel very hurt by your spouse, you adopt a “couldn’t care less” attitude to protect yourself from feelings of sadness, rejection, and vulnerability.
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    Be honest about whether you and your partner are taking each other for granted. When relationships are new, people tend to present the best versions of themselves: they work on their physical appearance, make an effort to listen attentively, and take the other person’s feelings seriously. Marriages are long-term endeavors, though, and as years pass, you may begin to take each other for granted. This is a sign that you need to work on your relationship, perhaps with the help of a counselor.
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    Contemplate your intimacy levels. Are you and your partner connecting romantically? Are you living together as affectionate, supportive partners, or have you become roommates? Consider whether too much distance is growing between you, and think about what you’re willing to do to bridge that gap – are you willing to commit to counseling and try to change your behaviors?
    • Take this issue especially seriously if you feel truly neglected by your partner. When one partner feels neglected because the other seems preoccupied with work, hobbies, or other interests, it can weigh on your marriage.
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    Consider your sex life. Are you happy with your sex life? If your partner has suddenly stopped initiating sex, that may be a sign of a problem – he or she may be having an affair, may be preoccupied with other problems, or may be feeling increasingly distant toward you. That’s a real problem, and so is the reverse – if you are feeling a lack of sexual desire for your partner, that’s also a cause for concern.
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    Ask yourself whether you are masking your negative emotions. If you often feel like you are pretending everything is okay or suppressing your sadness, anger, or frustration, you should consider talking to your partner about counseling. A marriage counselor can help you express negative emotions in healthy ways.
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    Talk to your partner. Your spouse needs to examine his or her own feelings as well, and the two of you need to decide whether you would be willing to see a marriage counselor. If one or both of you does not want to participate in the process, a counselor may not be useful.

Part 2
Dealing with Crises and Conflicts

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    Find a marriage counselor if a separation seems imminent. When one or both of you starts mentioning divorce or separation, it is time to assess your relationship seriously. If you both want to make it work, see a counselor as soon as possible.
    • This advice also applies if arguments are escalating to the point where one of you leaves the house, creating an unplanned, short-term separation. This pattern is a potentially damaging one, and it solves nothing: whatever problem you were arguing about remains unresolved, and it may continue to grow.
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    Seek counseling if one or both of you have been unfaithful. Infidelity does not necessarily lead to divorce, but it can take a lot of time and commitment to work through such a major breach of trust. Professional assistance is recommended in these situations.
    • Infidelity can be emotional as well as physical. When couples feel distant, they may become vulnerable to an “emotional affair” – developing feelings for and closeness with someone else, even if the relationship does not cross the line into sexual activity. Emotional affairs are warning signs that your marriage needs serious work.
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    Get help if either of you is dealing with mental illness. If one of you is dealing with major depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, your relationship may suffer. In addition to individual counseling for the person dealing with mental illness, you should check in with a marriage counselor together.
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    Consider seeking help for traumatic experiences. People who suffer from a traumatic experience sometimes find that their marriages suffer as a result. If one or both of you has dealt with an extremely upsetting or stressful event, you may decide that marriage counseling can help you repair any damage to your relationship. Consider seeing a marriage counselor if, for example, your relationship has been affected by:
    • the death of a parent, child, or other close relative
    • a major illness
    • surviving rape, assault, or another violent experience
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    Look for a counselor if you and your partner are clashing over parenthood. Starting a family is a major adjustment that can throw your relationship off kilter. A marriage counselor may be necessary if:
    • you cannot agree on whether you should have children (or more children)
    • you cannot agree on how to raise your children
    • you argue a lot about discipline
    • you feel you are staying in your marriage “for the children”

Part 3
Addressing Communication Issues

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    Seek help if you seem to be arguing constantly. If it seems that every conversation ends in an argument, look into marriage counseling – especially if your arguments become increasingly negative or bitter in tone.
    • In healthy marriages, arguments should not generally cross the line into nasty criticisms or insults. There should be an underlying sense of respect and affection that prevents conflict from becoming too bitter or mean-spirited. If this does not seem to be the case for you and your partner, a counselor is definitely a good idea.
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    Consider counseling if you argue about the same things over and over again. If you find yourself involved in “broken record” discussions and arguments with your partner, that probably means that the issues involved are going unresolved. You may need professional help to communicate with one another and solve the underlying problems.
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    Take negative communication seriously. In a healthy relationship, most of your communication should be positive and affectionate (or, at the very least, neutral). If, instead, you and your partner insult one another, complain about each other, or neglect each other’s needs, that’s negative communication – and it’s a sign of a serious problem in your relationship.
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    Look for a marriage counselor if you have not been supporting one another. You and your partner should be supporting one another and encouraging each other to pursue goals and become better people. If one or both of you feels neglected or unsupported, there may be a breakdown in communication. A marriage counselor can help you express your needs clearly and support one another more effectively.
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    Get help if you seem not to understand one another well. When couples have different or clashing perspectives, it can be tough to get through to one another and make your respective feelings understood. A marriage counselor can help you deal with many of these communication-related issues, including:
    • different value systems
    • different religious beliefs
    • different parenting styles
    • different interests
    • different ideas about what married life should look like
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    Address financial conflict. Marriage counselors can also be helpful for dealing with arguments about money, which often boil down to communication issues. If you and your partner are not communicating well about how money is spent, what your budget is, or who should control the finances, a marriage counselor may be a good resource.


  • Understand that conflicts and arguments are normal and healthy in any marriage. You should not expect a conflict-free relationship. You can, however, change the tone and effectiveness of your arguments and work on respecting one another more.
  • It’s better to see a marriage counselor as soon as you think you may have a serious problem than to wait too long and let your relationship deteriorate. Many couples who go to marriage counseling wish that they had sought help much earlier.
  • If you decide to pursue marriage counseling, try to go in with an open mind and a positive attitude. In general, this will help you succeed at improving your relationship.

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Categories: Marriage Issues