When your marriage turns stormy and whisperings of sweet nothings morph into shouting matches or cold wars, it can be hard to hold onto hope that things can change for the better.
The exasperation and sadness that we feel when our closest relationship isn’t doing well can be very difficult to deal with.
Is it possible to bring back the love and connectedness we once had with our spouse? How did things turn south seemingly overnight?
Is it worth seeking external help such as marriage counselling?
Questions like these might be flooding your mind. Here are six tell-tale signs that your marriage may need a helping hand.
- Almost every conversation turns into an argument
Having a normal conversation with your spouse – where one person doesn’t end up shouting – is next to impossible.
It feels like you are in combat mode all the time, and you may even avoid bringing up certain topics that you know are sensitive, such as visiting your parents, sharing the household chores, or your finances.
If everyday conversations with your spouse leaves you feeling angry, misunderstood, judged, or hopeless, you may need to learn new ways of communicating and how to set realistic expectations.
- One or both of you have mentioned “divorce”
Perhaps during one of your fights, one or both of you have raised the possibility of separation or divorce. Whether it was said in the heat of the moment or it is really something you’ve thought about seriously, the fact that the possibility was raised is a red flag.
It would be good to seek timely help from an objective facilitator who would be able to help you identify the root causes of your conflicts, and equip you with new tools to resolve them.
Be willing to talk about the offenses that have occurred, instead of denying or burying your hurt feelings.
- Conflicts end with ice-cold silence
It could be that you and your spouse are afraid to voice opinions for fear of “rocking the boat”, or are simply too emotionally drained to want to deal with the issues at hand, so you end up staying silent instead of communicating your needs or hurts.
This inability to express your real emotions, when allowed to continue over a prolonged period, can widen the rift between the both of you. Be willing to talk about the offenses that have occurred, instead of denying or burying your hurt feelings.
- Criticism and defensiveness are common occurrences
When one party launches into a complaint by criticising the other, it can often result in defensiveness in the one who feels attacked. This negative cycle can be hard to break out of, but it can be done.
First, be aware of your emotions and take pains to bring up an issue when both of you are feeling calm, and using more statements that begin with “I feel…” instead of “You always…”
When one party launches into a complaint by criticising the other, it can often result in defensiveness in the one who feels attacked.
- You feel you can no longer trust your spouse
If you feel the need to hide what you have from your spouse – from personal bank accounts to email accounts – there could be trust issues in your relationship.
Or maybe you are struggling to trust that he/she is being faithful to you and would constantly try to check their messages when they’re not looking.
Trust is an essential part of marriage; without it, it can be tough for couples to build a marriage that can withstand the ups and downs of life.
- Your sex life has seen changes
If you are having a lot less sex, or none at all, it could build up resentment in the relationship or a sense of emotional distance.
Such a change in your emotional and physical intimacy tends to spill over to other areas in your relationship. Sex is designed to bring bonding and closeness to a couple’s relationship, but the emotional wounds that you carry might be a dampener to your bedroom activity. Don’t allow your hurts to fester uncontrollably, as the issues could snowball and create even deeper wounds.
Should you seek marital counselling?
Our marriage needs to be a relationship where we feel secure, safe, and loved. If going home to each other is nothing more than sharing a house, or worst, associated with fights and tension, it is a clear sign that something needs to be worked on.
Those feelings of love and joy you once felt with each other can be rekindled. But it does take time, patience, a willingness to face the tough issues and emotions head-on, and in some cases, counselling help.
Many couples procrastinate in getting help for a variety of reasons. Don’t let hang-ups about counselling, or hopelessness, get in the way of your marriage and your wellbeing. Even if your spouse is unwilling to seek help, you can go ahead on your own to learn new ways of communication, which can still benefit your marriage.
Remember, change often begins with small steps, and it can start with you.
© 2022 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
If you are hitting roadblocks in your marriage, do consider seeking counselling help as soon as possible.
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