In my many years of helping couples, there’s been very few occasions where a couple reached out to me for help in the early stages of their marital distress. According to Dr. John Gottman (an awesome researcher who’s done tons of studies on marital stability), the average couple waits 6 years before seeking help for their marital problems. Six years! That’s far too long to live in unhappiness for anyone yet so many couples are doing this.
Here are 5 signs to look for to know when to seek help early.
- You’re giving each other the silent treatment frequently.
You both have given up on trying to communicate with each other. There’s an issue and neither of you bother anymore to try to resolve it. You’ve reached the stage in your relationship where you’ve decided there’s no point in communicating about issues as they likely never get resolved. You don’t feel understood or heard so you’ve given up.
- You’re arguing constantly.
When you do try to communicate about things, it turns into a fight. Even the small things seem difficult to talk about now. Conflicts escalate quickly and are frequent. They may even be happening in front of the kids. Consider this is a clear sign to get help.
- Your partner is no longer your confidante.
You find yourself confiding in others about your relationship instead of talking to your partner about your concerns. This is extremely threatening to the health and life of the relationship as this can feel like a betrayal to your partner.
- You discover that your partner is keeping secrets.
Secrets are toxic and create an atmosphere that breeds mistrust, anger and resentment. Maybe secrets are being kept about the way money is spent or how financial decisions are made. Perhaps it’s a secret about maintaining frequent contact with an ex-partner.
- You don’t make time for each other or for new experiences.
Making time for each one another is vital to any relationship’s success. Your life is busy and you have a full time job and children to care for. Or maybe you have an aging or ill parent and you’re the primary caregiver. I get it and I understand that finding the right balance is hard. Whatever your situation may be, your relationship needs your time. Attention, effort, love-you can’t give any of that without first giving your time. A little bit of time frequently goes a long way as opposed to large amounts of time in rare form.
This list is by no means exhaustive but includes very common early signs to look for. I’m often asked, “how long will we be in therapy for?” or “how often will we need to come?” I am never able to give an exact answer to those questions because the answer varies greatly. Every couple is different and so are their needs. What I do know, however, is that the couples who seek help early generally spend less time in counseling than couples who have waited a long time. Waiting longer only allows the problem to grow thereby making it worse.
Having some struggles in your relationship? Click here for a 15-minute consult to get your relationship started back on the right track.