Six things That People Who Need a Couples Counselor Might Say

February 28th, 2014

Robin Thicke and Paula Patton announced their split after a 9-year marriage.  The High school sweethearts released a statement that “We will always love each other and be best friends, however, we have mutually decided to separate at this time” While seeing the break-up of an apparently happy celebrity couple who have made such public declarations of their love can feel sudden, they may may have been struggling with the decision for some time. It is always difficult when a couple decides to part ways, but many times, the damage in a relationship can be repaired.  Unfortunately, the average couple waits 7 years before seeking assistance.  Often the catalyst is that one person has already begun to think about leaving and is looking for the validation to do so.  There are warning signs that relationship may be headed for trouble. Often the warning signs are bright and flashing.  They are simple statements that they hear themselves saying that reveal can revel deep underlying trouble. The sooner those signs can be recognized and addressed; the best chance a couple has to saving their relationship.

1. “We sleep apart”

Often one partner may snore or have trouble sleeping and waking up the other.   They sleep in separate beds to preserve the important rest needed to function.  While lack of sleep can exacerbate stress, touching our partner can actually reduce stress.  Hugging or handholding can result in the decrease of the stress hormone cortisol.  When we touch our partner, we release a neuropeptide called oxytocin in our bodies. Oxytocin promotes feelings of devotion and well being. Closeness, cuddling and skin to skin touch are important to bonding. Couples should explore ways emotionally or physically to solve these problems so they can comfortably sleep together again.  In therapy a couple can uncover whether the lack of touch has become a cause or symptom of relationship trouble.

2. “We haven’t been intimate in months”

Oftentimes, couples get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of life, work and family and put sex on the back burner.  Initially the reasons may seem practical, they are tired, working too much, involved with their children.  If they are not careful however, the lack of sex can become problematic.   Having sex less than a couple of times per year is also a warning sign that connectedness is missing in you relationship. Sex is important for bonding and is great for the overall sense of wellbeing as a couple and as individuals. Sex can be a tricky issue for couples and a seasoned therapist can help the couple make sure that the problems are not deeper than the couple realize.

3. “My partner isn’t as _________ as yours is”

Another sign that a couple should seek help is when one person finds his or herself comparing their partner with others and feeling like their partner is coming up short. When a negative stance towards your partner over takes your attitude, it can turn into a death spiral for the relationship that is difficult to pull out of. A Couples therapist can teach how to slow down and expand how you view your spouse. It is likely that when the relationship is looked at objectively before resentment has become entrenched, couples can learn to be more be honest and find that there is most likely good and bad to consider. The couple can learn techniques to focus on the good, and express to gratitude for each other.

4. “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”

Using a condescending tone or heavy sarcasm can be the harbinger of trouble for many relationships. When one partner communicates disdain and superiority to their partner, it kills safety and closeness. A condescending tone effectively shuts down love.  A therapist can help to explore what emotions are underlying this communication style and find ways to treat one another with respect.

5.  “I can talk to my co-worker about everything I can talk to my partner about”

A clear sign that a relationship is in trouble is if one member of a couple finds themselves sharing intimate, emotionally charged information a person outside the relationship. Be aware that telling someone you are attracted to about private aspects of your life can become a slippery slope to emotional betrayal that will ultimately destroy your relationship. Keeping the relationship secret, hiding phones or emails or lying to your spouse about your where you are, are all warning signs relationship is in deep trouble even if it has never progressed to anything physical.  A couples counselor can help uncover how that opening to another outside the relationship began and how to restore that emotional closeness with your partner.

6. “You weren’t there for me when I needed you.”

Another trouble sign is and attachment wound. An attachment wound is a hurt one partner caused the other at a particularly important moment. Often the partner who caused the hurt is unaware of the hurt he or she caused or has consistently minimized the hurt over time causing further trauma. Attachment wounds are emotional time bombs. They are gashes in the most precious bonds we hold dear. They occur when the person you most rely on to have your back lets you down emotionally at a moment in time when you were particularly vulnerable. Perhaps it is one a wife does not take defend her husband when her father criticizes him, or when a wife feels her husband doesn’t understand why she still feels upset by a miscarriage years before. These types of emotional trauma can severely undermine the trust and security of the relationship. An attachment wound may simmer below the surface in a relationship, blowing up years later.

Whether we have said these statements aloud or just in our heads, they are trouble signs in relationships.  These signs start in small, insidious ways, if we are not careful it is can lose one another. We slip past our partner’s emotional needs and don’t attend to their hurts, fears and shame.  Each of us yearns for emotional bonding. The trick is to nurture it in our committed relationships. Unfortunately couples counseling is stigmatized and we only seek help as a last resort. The key to preserving our relationships is to seek help when the first signs appear.  Unfortunately, couples counseling is stigmatized which is unfortunate. Couples need to all embrace the notion that help is available. We all know that regular checkups lead to prevention of diseases in or bodies and can prevent a trip to a specialist.   A qualified couples counselor can prevent disease in our relationship from festering and leading its death.  If you find yourself making these statements, seek help before it is too late.