It seems that there are classes on just about everything that you might or might not, be interested in. But where is the class on intimate relationships? Did we all miss it, or was it simply not there... Well, as you are oh so well aware, it wasn’t there. It’s unfortunate that we all have only our friends, movies, tv, songs on the radio, romance novels, and of course, our parents to guide us in our goal to achieve a healthy intimate relationship. More often than not, we find that these resources have left us wanting for a better answer. Yet often in our indomitable spirit of independence, we soldier on to the seemingly inevitable demise of our relationship. It doesn’t need to be this way. There is an answer; marriage counseling. Oh! But, how do I know when we really need a marriage counselor? Here are 7 clear indications that it is time for the master class on intimate relationships. Aren’t you worth the time and effort it may take to have the loving relationship you so desire?
1) Communication - Our ability to communicate with each other is the most fundamental emotional connection tool we have in our relationship tool box. When we first met, we talked, and talked and talked, about everything and nothing. It felt wonderful. We felt a connection that we had never felt before. It stemmed from communication. The ability to share emotions, feelings, and life events, while feeling heard, respected, and loved was key to us making our deepest and most lasting connection. When our communication begins to break down, so does our most intimate connection. Which leaves one or both of us feeling discounted, depressed, insecure and unloved. Now’s the time to seek a marriage counselor.
2) Conflict resolution or non-resolution - Problem solving is a skill we all develop over the course of our lifetimes. Over time, we all become rather proficient at problem solving. Life has a way of making sure we get lots of practice... So why is it so difficult to resolve problems in our intimate relationship?! There are many reasons that problem solving in an intimate relationship requires a master class in problem solving. The primary reason it’s such a challenge is that what counts as resolution for one of you, typically doesn’t count for the other. Couple this with one of you, “going along to get along”, or some other form of compromise like “fine... we’ll try it your way”. This leaves one of us feeling vindicated, and the other resentful. This resentment only sows the seeds of the next fight. Which results in fighting about the same issues over and over, and over again, each time without any meaningful resolution. Now’s the time to seek out a wise teacher, and get the master class in intimate relationship problem solving skills that we all need.
3) Feeling like roommates - At its heart, our intimate relationship is an emotionally intimate relationship. When our emotional connection begins to wane, we need to see this for what it is. Our relationship is in serious trouble and it needs help. We often will justify these feelings by telling ourselves, and others... “it’s only a phase”, or “the fire never lasts, does it...?” Your spouse looks relatively similar to when you first met, but you feel no excitement or even a desire to touch them when they are around. You might wonder if it’s just that we are getting older, or maybe my hormones changing, or a pit of hatred that roils around when you remember your list of resentments. It’s probably the last one... and it’s time to find someone who gets this stuff and can help save your marriage.
4) Sex no more - Sexual intimacy is how most of us differentiate a friendship from an intimate relationship. I would submit that intimate communication and physical intimacy are both essential elements of a healthy intimate relationship. However, when the physical side of our relationship begins to diminish, we all agree there is trouble. There can be many reasons for this most frustrating turn of events, depression: money problems, anger, frustration, too little time, kids, self image issues, or self-esteem issues. All, or any one, of these is more than reason enough to begin a productive discussion with a professional marriage counselor, and bring the intimacy back to your intimate relationship.
5) Kids - Kids are wonderful to be sure. However, having kids, especially your first child, changes everything. Before your child is born all of your attention and affection is focused on your lover. This attention, affection and love is very fulfilling and quite frankly is the reason we crave intimate relationships. This kind of attention is good for us. Again, all well and good, however when our first child comes along this all changes. All of that attention goes to the baby, as it should. But there is a problem here. “I” crave that attention that used to come my way but now it goes to the baby. As much as I intellectually understand the situation has changed, my heart still misses you, and us. This is true for all of us, and as a couple we need to be aware of this and work together to ensure that these most basic needs are addressed for all of us in our growing family. This can be much easier said than done, especially if tempers flair. See a seasoned marriage professional. They will get it and help you get it, too.
6) Infidelity - Infidelity is the number one issue that brings couples to marriage counseling. Recovering from an affair is quite challenging individually, and as a couple. If both of you are committed to making things right, the experience of counseling can be a significant opportunity for self discovery and growth as a couple. Mending the broken hearts and repairing the shattered trust are significant undertakings, but with an experienced marriage counselor, your marriage can be stronger then it ever was, and perhaps ever would have been.
7) Ready to change - Are the both of you ready to change? This readiness usually is a result of the both of you exhausting every other avenue available to you. Everything else has failed. Either this works or it’s divorce for us. As long as you still have some “gas in the tank”, this is the time to seek marriage counseling. The reason to participate in marriage counseling is to learn about yourself and your relationship. Simply put, you got yourself into this mess, and now it’s up to you to change it. Taking responsibility for your share of your marital problems is the first step towards finding effective solutions. The insight you gain into the “why” you do the things you do, either as individuals or as a couple, give you the ability to make new choices or to do things differently than you have in the past. Don’t expect to change your spouse. No one has the power to change another person. Instead, focus on learning what your role in your relationship issues is, and focus on learning what you need to know about why these things are happening and what the alternate options are. Work as a team with your spouse and therapist, and your relationship will thrive!