April 26, 2021

When to Seek Marriage Counseling, 7 Signs You Need It

Written by Sara Lane

When to Seek Marriage Counseling, 7 Signs You Need It black couple hugging

Feeling frustrated in your marriage?

If you are reading about when it’s time to seek marriage counseling, you are likely feeling pretty frustrated in your relationship.

  • Do you have a hard time connecting with your partner?
  • Are you stuck having the same arguments over and over again?
  • Do you fear that you and your partner are more disconnected than ever?
  • Do you not recognize the one person you once felt most connected to? Is that person your partner?

If you answered yes, now is the time for you to seek marriage counseling. Whether you are married or not, relationships are complicated.

It takes a lot of moving parts to make a relationship work, but sometimes things can get out of hand and, before you know it, you barely recognize the person lying next to you.

Getting Relationship Help

You and your partner may be seeking marriage counseling due to something that’s not nearly as drastic as intense fighting or icy feelings towards your partner. Your relationship doesn’t need to be at the breaking point before you decide you need help.

It’s okay just to seek help. Of course, we understand that it can be intimidating, especially if neither of you has ever seen a therapist before.

“What does that say about our relationship? Are things that bad?”

No. You are simply setting out to give your relationship the care it deserves when you seek couples counseling. Would you expect your car to run without issue if you never cared for it with oil changes or new tires?

With that in mind, think about your relationship as a Nascar race, and each lap is a year. There are many different obstacles to navigate and tons of problems you’ll have to solve.

Throughout most long races, there are checkpoints, tire changes, and filters changed. How long do you expect the car to go without proper upkeep or maintenance?

Eventually, everything, including our relationships, needs some care.

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Gottman Institute: 4 Signs of Divorce, When to Seek Marriage Counseling

No relationship is perfect. How could they be?

Most couples argue, and that’s nothing new. It’s also nothing to be ashamed of if you do argue.

But, perfection aside, if your arguments leave you feeling hurt and wholly disconnected from your partner, you may need to get that checked out.

At the Gottman Institute, they study relationships:

  • What makes them work?
  • What makes them fall apart?

Following that question, they studied thousands of couples and found the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse” as the four determining factors of divorce.

If these behaviors are regulars in your relationship, you should seek marriage counseling and address these issues.

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The “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse”

1. Criticism

One or both of you is bringing up problems in your relationship by criticizing your partner. This kind of language can be destructive to your relationship and pushes your partner away.

Almost always, you’ll end up leaving the problem unsolved. Couples argue, but there is no need to make it personal.

Rather than bringing up the complaint neutrally, you are putting down something about their personality or tendencies. Instead, you can learn to bring up your complaints neutrally and address the behavior or action without attacking, judging, or criticizing your partner as a person.

seek marriage counseling

2. Defensiveness

When one or both of you respond to criticism from your partner with a counterattack or whining in defensiveness, yes, criticism hurts. Still, when you respond with defensiveness, you’re engaging in the same blaming behavior, which escalates the conflict.

Moreover, throwing up some defensive language when faced with what may easily be a legitimate grievance doesn’t make you or your partner feel any better. Instead, listen to the complaint, and acknowledge exactly how you feel.

“I’d like to respond to that, but I’m feeling very attacked right now, so can we revisit this at another time?”

3. Contempt

Defined as “the act of despising,” contempt is the name for that prickly, gross feeling that writhes its way into your heart after an argument. You look at your partner and feel angry and disconnected.

When one or both of you is criticizing from a position of “moral superiority” – sarcasm, snide looks or comments, name-calling, turning your head away in disgust.

These indicate a very negative communication style, and it’s the most lethal combination to a relationship. Contempt often surfaces after a period of simmering negativity in your relationship.

Couples who experience scorn or disdain are also more likely to suffer from illnesses.

seek marriage counseling

4. Stonewalling

If one or both of you feel so attacked that you go into fight or flight mode and shut down, and we do mean “shut down.” There is no more listening or attempt at understanding.

Usually, there is just distance and pain. Additionally, there may be increased heart rates and not being able to think straight.

You or your partner may be feeling overloaded with sensory information. Stonewalling often occurs after a period of hopelessness or endless and often aggressive arguing.


Other Factors That Indicate You May Need to Seek Marriage Counseling

When you are in it for the long-long haul, your communication won’t always be perfect, and that’s okay. But if you or your partner often argue and feelings of contempt, habits of criticism, defensive behavior, and stonewalling are always in attendance, the long haul gets a lot harder.

Getting started on your relationship today can change everything. Remember to notice and demonstrate positivity towards your partner through the little things.

Perhaps it’s making time to eat dinner together because you know it’s crucial to your partner or giving a hug and kiss goodnight. Change can start with small acts of positivity.

Relationships need to be a place where we feel secure and loved, not alone.

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The following signs are based on Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and the book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.


If you engage in patterns of anger or withdrawal when needs aren’t met, you’re engaging in patterns of disconnection. Rather than discussing concerns and needs with vulnerability and connecting with a partner, this pattern of reacting to one another starts a negative spiral of anger, hurt, and disconnection.

Counseling helps couples identify what is behind the spiral and learn skills to respond to one another differently.


Lack of trust that needs will be met

It occurs when either you or your partner do not trust that your needs will be met or responded to if you reach out to your partner.

  • When trust isn’t present, partners no longer risk being vulnerable with one another, and emotions and needs aren’t expressed.
  • When requirements aren’t met, the gap between you and your partner widens.

Occasionally, this issue can lead to you or your partner searching outside the relationship to get needs met.

What is Marriage Counseling? Find out.

Feel unable to resolve issues with your partner

If you feel that you’re in some sort of dance that ends up in anger when you and your partner try to communicate about needs or emotions, that’s a good sign you’re in a negative pattern. A couples counselor will help you get to what is behind this pattern to start to change the conversation and stop reacting to one another.


When to Seek Couples Counseling, Do It Now

Don’t let your marriage go on or end like this. You deserve to participate in a relationship that brings you happiness.

You and your partner deserve to enjoy a relationship that is full of connection, understanding, and warmth. If these are feelings of the past, it’s time to seek marriage counseling.

Read more… strategies to improve your marriage. 

Next Steps

Contact us to find out more about how a marriage therapist can help or read more about marriage counseling services. To get started now, give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.

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