Psychotherapy Perspectives

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don’t Wait to Save Your Relationship

by Garth Mintun, LCSW, ACSW

In my Indianapolis Indiana private practice, often people come in when they are at the breaking point in a long troubled marriage and about to separate or feel hopeless about a long standing “loveless marriage” for many years. In other words, the relationship or marriage is in an emergency or dying state and only intensive crisis work can save the relationship. Often one partner does not have the patience to wait, the desire for change or the hope of repair to invest in the intensive relationship work that psychotherapy or couple work requires.

When couples come in with emergency status, there often are so many long standing negative patterns that it is challenging, even with professional therapy, to salvage the relationship.

The optimal time for a couple to seek counseling is when the problems are relatively young, the couple is not disenchanted with each other, and contempt and or detachment have not taken over the relationship. This early intervention increases the chances of working out their relationship satisfactory.

The best time to begin couple counseling is when there are small troubles with the relationship. Let me list the possible signs that signal need for help:
1. He/she does not listen to me
2. He/she is holding back their feelings
3. He/she roll their eyes
4. She/he is physically present but not emotionally with me
5. I miss the romance that I once had with him/her
6. We never seem to resolve our verbal fights
7. We don’t seem to ever make time together
8. I imagine how my life would be simpler if I was single
9. I lost my best friend
10. She/he does not seem happy
11. I am not as happy as I used to be in my relationship
12. She/he is never home
13. She/he says hurtful things and doesn’t seem to care about my feelings
14. She/he never validates me or gives me appreciation I want
15. We don’t have sex very often and it is not as good as it used to be
16. I constantly find myself jealous of others
17. He/she is constantly jealous of me for nothing
18. I love him/her but I am not in love
19. We constantly verbally fight about little things that don’t matter
20. Every time we fight, he/she throws the kitchen sink at me

These signs can be alerts that harmful relationship patterns are forming, and seeking help when these behaviors and responses are few increases the success of the relationship.
All twenty signs are symptomatic of larger relationship stressors and if not addressed will mushroom and beget many smaller problems until there are significant relationship breakdowns and serious symptoms. These symptoms can come in the form of emotional and physical affairs, separation and sometimes domestic violence.
With one or just a few of these problems taken care of early when they first arise by seeing a professional psychotherapist, often at this stage the relationship is strengthened resulting in more intimacy and satisfaction. However untreated, these problems spiral out of control and couples go into crisis mode, often beyond the point of recovery.

If some of these problems are present in your relationship, don’t hesitate to get help from a professional. If you catch these problems earlier, you will go to counseling for a shorter time, will be less expensive in time and money and emotional harm, and you will probably develop a more loving and satisfying relationship.


  • Great article.
    I too write about relationships.

    Scott Boehler is a relationship expert and runs the website Repair My Relationship and blog site Get My Ex Back

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 10:22 AM  

  • But how do you know when little things are still small? I guess what I am really trying to ask is how do you know when your problems are still at a manageable stage? I mean doesn't everyone argue from time to time? I do not want to drag my husband into counseling if what we are experiencing are just normal run of the mill types of arguments that many couples are having. That would seem like a waste of time and I think that he would resent me for doing that.

    By Blogger therapist, At 7:07 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 9:40 PM  

  • I understand how it can be confusing to know when to come to counseling for the "little things". To clarify, what I meant in the article is that when the little things are not repaired in the relationship, they can quickly snowball and become a big problem in time. If you catch the little things that cause you not to get your needs met and you try to work it out with your significant other to no avail, then receive professional help before it becomes a deal breaker in the relationship.

    By Blogger Garth Mintun, At 10:05 PM  

  • Hmm.

    And how do you suggest trying to get a man to think far ahead enough that he could see this / plan this / be willing to put effort into something like this?

    I have taken the suggestions of "dating/relationship expert" after "dating/relationship expert" after therapist after mental health professional. I have managed to increase by a fairly significant percentage the number of men who are "attracted" to me (though if I hear the phrase "losing attraction" one more time, there is a substantial possibility I will be publicly ill). I have increased the number of dates on which I am invited out by a substantial percentage.

    And the commonality?

    There is not one man who is willing / able to see more than five minutes in front of his face to the degree necessary to plan for a relationship to go well in the way that you suggest.

    And there is no way, as a woman, I can suggest that they do things differently, because if I've learned anything else about this process, it is that men refuse to listen to women about it. Men will only listen to other men.

    So ... at *that* point, what do you suggest?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 2:27 PM  

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