5 signs for couples to seek timely professional help
Don’t wait for a major relationship breakdown to have a breakthrough...
When it comes to finding love and sustaining important relationships, most people tend to leave their success or failure almost entirely to chance. This applies as much to singles struggling to find love on the dating scene and families dealing with inter-generational clashes, as it does to couples in long term relationships.
Deciding to ask for help with your relationship is a very personal decision of course and there may be many reasons why ‘now’ never seems to be the right time, but as a specialist relationship therapist, what still strikes me as odd is that many clients wait until their relationship problems are unavoidable and life has become quite unbearable before seeking out professional help.
While it’s great that people reaching a crunch-point are willing to look at what’s not working for them, like most things in life, relationships can be enhanced and difficulties dealt with quicker and more effectively by catching the problem early and giving it a bit of attention before it gets too bad. It’s not a very romantic notion, but think of working with a relationship therapist as a bit like putting your car through an MOT – you’d rather spare the expense and you might not know what they’ll find under the hood, but it gives you hope that in the long run you’ll be safe from major breakdowns and can enjoy a far less bumpy ride!
Here is my top five signs for couples to seek timely professional help:
1. You find yourself talking to friends and family about the same old problem
Most people will first reach out to friends and family for advice about their relationships, and sometimes this is all it takes to put a new perspective on things. But often, even though such advice can be very well-intentioned with your best interests at heart, your nearest and dearest will only ever be able to speak from their own perspective on a situation and they’ll tend to tell you what they think you want to hear. They either can’t or won’t tell you what you need to hear that will make the difference.
2. You can’t stop arguing
A famous therapist once said that "every couple only has one fight", and for many couples this is the uncomfortable truth. Whether today’s argument is about socks on the floor, or emptying the bin, the pattern – who says and does what when - will be familiar, predictable and well-rehearsed. Unpicking your pattern with a bit of expert help can truly be a revelation and set you on course to breaking the habit.
3. You’re dealing with a major change
Changes in circumstances, such as a house move, the arrival of a child or a big work promotion are easier to spot than the emotional changes that may go alongside, but change is unavoidable and is likely to confront a couple many times over the course of a relationship. And it’s fair to say that you’ll probably be more or less equipped to deal with change at different times. It makes sense though to seek out professional help when you're struggling to cope. You may find one or both of you has become focused on your own thoughts and feelings, with less time and energy for the relationship and family, and perhaps there's also a general sense of frustration or anger. It’s at times like this when our ability to communicate what’s going on is likely to be limited. Being in communication is also ironically the solution here. Working with a relationship therapist can help you to open up and put into words what you’re feeling and why, in the kind of neutral and non-judgemental way that your partner will be far more likely to hear.
4. You feel that you don’t really deserve a happy relationship
You don’t really like yourself that much, so why should anyone else? Does this sound familiar? Do you think you’re not attractive enough, or clever or just worthy enough to allow a sense of love and fulfilment into your relationship? Working with a professional therapist can help you to think again. Most of us entertain more negative than positive thoughts about ourselves, so finding out what’s driving such negative thoughts can help you to see them as the self-limiting untruths that they are and allow the real-you to shine through.
5. Your sex life is less than satisfying
It is possible to have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex, and that’s fine as far as I’m concerned. However, for most people, sex and intimacy are completely intertwined when they want to create a successful, loving relationship. It’s easy to get them out of balance though – we can hide our emotional vulnerability behind lots of energetic and exuberant sexual encounters, designed to mimic intimacy, or lose the intimacy of sharing our personal desires with another from a fear of possible rejection and judgement. Discussing your sexual attitudes, values, beliefs and practices with a professional can help you bring some self-awareness and balance to these equally important aspects of love.
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About Helen Rice
Helen Rice MA MSc MBACP is a counsellor & specialist relationship therapist in private practice in Poole, Dorset. As a specialist relationship therapist, Helen enables individuals, couples & family groups to deal with a wide range of relational issues including affairs, separation & divorce, marriage preparation, children, dating, sex & intimacy.