Does this look like your marriage?
Marriage, like all close relationships, activates tension between the two partners. It is impossible to be married without feeling frustrated, hurt, disappointed and sometimes just plain angry with one’s spouse. Couples who experience these feelings do not necessarily need help. But sometimes the problems become so painful and couples feel so stuck that professional help is needed. There are several signals that normal corrective and self healing mechanisms have broken down and that a couple needs outside help to resolve their problems.
(1) If a couple feels stuck, if they find themselves repeating the same arguments over and over without making any real progress, and if the resentment and bad feelings begin to accumulate, then a third party can help get them off dead center.
(2) If either spouse detects what to him or her is disruptive or disturbing behavior by the partner, then help should be summoned. Is one spouse severely depressed? Depression is not always a sign of marital difficulties as such, but studies have shown that there is a close relationship between depression and the degree of marital adjustment. Is one spouse abusing alcohol or another drug? Is one partner extremely jealous of the other? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then marriage counseling is indicated.
(3) Has the communication between partners become mostly or almost exclusively hostile? This can mean perpetual arguments or vicious verbal attacks. It also applies to the stony silence or the cold shoulder, which in its own way is a powerful, hostile communication. Most divorces are preceded, not by lots of arguing, but by lots of silence. If your marriage is too quiet, get help.
(4) Has there been an affair? Even if the affair has been broken off and if the couple has agreed they want to keep the marriage together, professional help is indicated. An affair signals the presence of either a very troubled marriage or deep seated emotional problems in one spouse, or both. In either case it is wise not to assume that everything is OK just because the affair is over.
(5) Does one spouse feel that someone, an in-law or a child, or something, a job or a hobby, is coming between the two of them? These situations are similar to an affair. The only difference is that the third party is not a sexual partner. It means help is needed.
(6) Finally, if there are severe emotional or behavioral problems in a child, which persist over more than a few days the parents should consider a marital-family evaluation. A child can serve as a barometer that picks up the signs of a stormy marriage. The child’s disturbing behavior may reflect marital tension, which needs to be addressed.
When the going gets tough, stay away from amateur counselors. This includes your boss, your secretary, your next door neighbor, your child, and your mother. When you are upset with your spouse, deal with him or her eyeball to eyeball. And if that is not working, call a competent, experienced marriage counselor.
– from My Marriage Manual by Dr. Ross
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