The Christmas period can be an incredibly difficult time for married couples – particularly if you were already feeling a strain on your relationship beforehand.
Perhaps the stress of this year, and the pandemic in general, has changed things within your marriage?
You might find yourselves arguing more, struggling with jealousy or battling with constant criticism.
Or maybe end-of-year fatigue has set in and has got you thinking about the things that need to change within your marriage for 2022?
If you’re unsure how to fix things yourself, it could be time to seek help in the form of marriage counselling.
We’ve rounded up some key signs that it might be time to talk to a professional.
Signs you might need marriage counselling
Conversation between the two of you is difficult or strained
If you find it very difficult to have a chat when it’s just the two of you then it could be time to get help, explains counsellor Hilary Sims.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It could be you prefer to pick up your phone and look at social media rather than talk to your partner.
‘Or if your partner asks how you are, you just give the standard “OK” answer as you don’t want to really tell them how you feel. You just want to keep the conversations as short as possible.’
These are all signs there’s been a breakdown in communication.
You are no longer interested in the same things
Another example of when it might be time to get professional help is if you notice that you have little in common anymore.
Hilary says: ‘This can happen after the children have grown up and moved on and you find it difficult to find something to do that you both enjoy.
‘When you have children, you would go to do things together because of the children, but now there is only the two of you, it might be there is no joy in doing these activities.’
You no longer have an intimate relationship
Hilary adds that another key indicator is that you no longer want to be intimate with each other, because the spark has gone in the relationship.
‘The lack of intimate relationship can be magnified when there is just the two of you left at home,’ she adds.
‘When you have a family at home, there probably hasn’t been time to focus on the lack of an intimate relationship.’
You prefer to go out with your friends rather than your partner
The next sign comes down to priorities – when you put other people above your spouse.
‘It might be you make arrangements to go out with your friend when your partner asks if you want to go out – or you say you are “too tired” and that “you’ve already been out this week,”’ adds Hilary.
You find an excuse to stay away from the house
If you (or your partner) finds yourself not wanting to come home and spend time together, this is another red flag.
Hilary adds: ‘Maybe you spend time just walking around the shops after you have done your shopping, just to stay away from home.
‘Or you find you are not enjoying being at home, even though you like your home.’
Alternatively, you might find yourself offering to help friends do things rather than go home.
This is another thing to look out for.
Does marriage counselling work?
If you’re wondering whether marriage counselling can really make things better, previous research seems to show that it can have a real positive impact.
A 2017 study looked at couples therapy in a group of veterans and found it to be generally effective, with improved relationships even 18 months after treatment.
Another study from 2017 also found improvements lasting 24 months after treatment.
How to find marriage counselling near you
The NHS offers a tool where you can search for relationship counselling services near you.
Likewise, a number of other resources can be found online, including information from relationship charity Relate and the British Counselling Service.
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