Early Warning Signs You Need Marriage Counseling

Often, when a marriage has become troubled, a couple will typically wait too long to seek counseling. In many cases, the relationship has been having serious issues for about six years before either or both of the spouses seek counseling, and in some cases, this may make the counseling less effective and helpful. Many couples wait so long simply because they often do not realize what a toll their conflict is taking, or don't realize the benefits of counseling. In some cases, one spouse will resist counseling and so the other spouse doesn't go either. However, it is possible to get effective counseling alone, and in some cases, making changes to yourself rather than the marriage is enough to make positive improvements. Here are some early signs you need marriage counseling – either alone or together – so you don't go beyond the point of no return in your marriage conflict.

The Four Horseman

Prominent marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman has noted that four behaviors known as "The Four Horseman" are a clear indication of a marriage in trouble. These include:

  • Contempt
  • Stonewalling
  • Defensiveness
  • Criticism

If there are regular interactions of these types, even if they don't lead to serious or aggressive conflict, it could still cause a steady erosion of a marriage. When these types of behaviors are seen regularly in your marriage, it is definitely time to get counseling.

More Negatives Than Positives

Even couples that argue frequently don't necessarily have a bad marriage – the problem arises when there are more negative interactions than positive. If you have at least five positive interactions for one negative, you still have hope for your marriage. It's when your interactions become primarily negative that divorce may be looming. Supremely happy couples have a positive to negative ratio of 20 to 1.

Husband Refusing Wife's Influence

One rather unusual but clear indication that a marriage is in trouble is when a husband does not allow his wife to influence his moods, his decisions or his life in general. While this can apply for women refusing influence as well, studies show that the husband refusing the wife's influence was a huge and clear predicting factor for later divorce.

These early signs are warnings, albeit sometimes subtle, that a marriage could be derailed and end in divorce. If you see any of these indications on a regular basis, it is time to seek counseling either alone or with your spouse (through a local counselor such as Associates For Counseling & Psychotherapy).