Let me start this post off by saying this: this is not meant to be a depressing read. It’s intention is not to make you think “Crap. Some (all?) of these are true of my marriage, so I guess we are doomed.” Quite the opposite. The title of this post is NOT “5 Ways to Recognize that Your Marriage is OVER”. No, no, no, no, no. In fact, being able to relate to some of the things mentioned in this post doesn’t necessarily even mean your marriage is in huge trouble. It may just mean you could use a little help. A little clarity. Some equipping.Or maybe your marriage IS in huge trouble. Either way, let me encourage you….before you throw in the towel, seek help.
Now besides some of the more obvious reasons why couples may seek out counseling (infidelity, addiction, deception, recent loss or trauma, etc) here are five less blatant, but potentially just as toxic, issues that can creep into your marriage. These can be hard to fix on your own, but with professional help, I truly believe these do NOT have to be relationship-killers.
- You Aren’t Having Fun Together Anymore, You Don’t Like Each Other, and You’ve Got Nothing to Talk About: Marriage isn’t supposed to be a business arrangement. Yes, there is a lot of “business” to take care of, which results in a lot of busy-ness, but let’s not forget: you guys were friends before you were anything else. There was a time when you talked about and did other things that were NOT related to kids, bills, household responsibilities, and all the activities that make up day to day life. It can be awfully easy to forget that though. Often times, simply committing to regular date nights, time together in the evenings, occasional getaways, and/or a shared hobby can alleviate this problem, but if those things don’t help….seek out counseling.
- There is a major breakdown in communication: Everything you say to each other seems to fall on deaf ears, OR be misconstrued. You’re saying it one way, but they are taking it a different way. Every. Single. Time. In your head, and in your heart, you know what your intentions and motivations are, and they are good. But…your spouse isn’t hearing it that way. Or, you have communicated so poorly to them for so long (maybe angrily, maybe disrespectfully, maybe in a nagging or annoying manner) that quite simply, they are done listening. You have a problem. You can try to read a book on effective communication skills or…you can seek out counseling
- An Ongoing Problem Continues to Emerge and There is Never Any Resolution: You just CANNOT see eye to eye. You love each other. You even like each other. And yet…you keep encountering a problem…you see it this way, he sees it that way, and both of you have tried to meet in the middle and you JUST CAN’T. Well, my friend, you need a mediator. Maybe one of you is looking at the situation all wrong, and you need someone besides your spouse to make that clear to you. Maybe BOTH of you are looking at it all wrong, and there is an entirely NEW way of seeing things, that neither of you has ever considered before. You may just leave your counseling session together (hand in hand) saying “why didn’t we ever think of that?”. Because you aren’t a counselor! That’s why! But aren’t you glad you just went and saw one?
- Something From the Past REFUSES to STAY in the Past: You thought you had forgiven him. Moved on. He thought that thing you told him about didn’t really bother him, and yet….he’s still thinking about it. That incident that occurred when you were a kid….you made your peace with that a long time ago. And yet….why does it still seem to rear it’s ugly head sometimes, and negatively impact your relationship with your spouse? His dad left his family when he was a kid, and he didn’t think it really shaped his view of marriage and family, and yet…suddenly he is feeling the repercussions of his dad’s actions all those years ago. You get the idea. One or both of you may have things from the past….your individual pasts, or your past together as a couple, that either you buried entirely, or that you THOUGHT you had dealt with, but you just didn’t do a good job of it. If this is the case, NOW Is the time to go ahead and face that ugliness head on. Find a counselor, and deal with that s**t.
- You are Married.…..Ha. What?? Seriously, though. You don’t actually have to be in crisis, or encountering any sort of major problem, to benefit from marriage counseling. A while back, my husband and I were having a bit of an an issue. In the grand scheme of issues, it was pretty small, and didn’t necessarily warrant counseling. However, our church happens to offer counseling free to its congregation, so we thought, “why not? Couldn’t hurt!”. So we went in for a session, and after leaving, my husband said, ” Every married couple should go to weekly counseling, just for the heck of it! It’s awesome!”. And it really was. Counseling doesn’t have to be something you wait to do once you are IN crisis-mode. It can also be a really effective preventative measure to help ensure you don’t GET to crisis mode.
So, whether your marriage has cancer, or just the sniffles, counseling could be exactly the treatment that you need. My hope and prayer for you, if you are reading this, and you are in a rough patch in your marriage, is that you will not give up. Marriage is a beautiful thing. Marriage is a difficult thing. Rough spots are normal and expected, and are going to come, but so much sweetness and richness and depth and beauty can come from recognizing that fact, and then still committing to each other to work through it. Together. No matter what it takes.