If you talk to yourself every so often, either out loud or in your mind, sometimes it really pays to listen to the statements you make -- especially if your romantic relationship has been on the rocks lately. Some of those innocent comments could even be interpreted as signs that you and your partner could use some professional guidance. Here are three statements that might signal a need for couples counseling.
1. "I Don't Recognize My Partner Anymore"
If your partner has become an unrecognizable figure to you, you may feel like you've entered into a relationship with a total stranger. It's certainly true that people change and evolve (or sometimes devolve) in response to life experiences, sometimes in a way that their partners don't necessarily like. But this shift in perception may be a sign that you, too, have changed over the years, possibly without your even realizing it. Communication to bridge this developing gap is critical, but how do you talk to someone it seems you hardly know anymore -- and how can they talk to you? This is a situation in which couples or marriage counseling can prove invaluable by providing a "moderator" to step in, ask the right questions, and get the communication flowing again.
There's one critical exception to this general rule, however. If one partner is abusing the other, then couples counseling can actually exacerbate the problem instead of resolving it. That's because couples counseling involves making both partners see and accept partial responsibility for a relationship issue, while abusive behavior is solely the responsibility of the abuser. Individual mental health counseling is a more appropriate way of handling this kind of problem.
It's also worth noting that a truly radical and inexplicable personality shift might be a sign of a mental disorder or chemical dependence issue, not a problem directly attributable to your relationship.
2. "The Attraction Is Gone"
If you finding yourself confiding this statement to your best friend, your diary or your mirror, then you need to get to the root of how and why you no longer feel attracted to your partner. Perhaps the reason is obvious -- for instance, if your partner has undergone a genuinely extraordinary change in appearance (for the worse), you might be disappointed or even repulsed (especially if the change represents a disregard for the person's well being, or if your partner made the change without any regard for your feelings on the matter). But it may also reflect your desire for your relationship, as symbolized by your partner, to be something other than it currently is. Skilled marriage or couples counseling can help you and your partner develop a better understanding of why the thrill is gone -- and that's a big step toward restoring it.
A lull in attraction, whether one-sided or mutual in nature, can spell big trouble for the relationship if it's allows to continue. One of the biggest dangers involves you or your partner contemplating an affair. These thoughts are far from harmless fantasies once the anchor of physical attraction has lost its steadying power over your relationship. It's far better to deal with these feelings in therapy now than to try to repair a huge breach of trust after an affair has actually occurred.
3. "We're Holding Out on Each Other"
Remember those heady early days in your relationship when you and your partner were able to talk for hours about everything? If your bond is largely characterized by silence or curt responses to questions these days, then you may well feel that your partner is keeping secrets from you -- and your partner may feel the same way about you. A reluctance to answer such basic questions as "Where were you last night?" or "Where's all our money going?" can (and probably should) raise red flags. More commonly, however, you may just not know what to say to each other anymore, or you may indulge in "silent treatment" tactics as a way of controlling or punishing each other.
Silence tends to work better for monasteries than it does for households. A comfortable silence between loving partners is one thing, but a chilly one that makes you, your partner and your kids anxious is quite another. Family counseling is definitely a good idea in these cases.
If you catch yourself making any of the statement listed above, give those words the weight they deserve. Seek out a couples counseling expert in your area for an initial consultation. The advice you receive could save your relationship!