“Are you there for me?” is the number one question inherent to almost all relationships. But for spouses particularly, it is vital to know – will you be there when I need you? Are you dependable? Do you have my best interests at heart? All of these and more are wrapped up in the concept of “being there” for each other. Although no relationship can meet all of our needs perfectly, if we are able to say “yes” to these questions most of the time, we will experience a satisfying, secure connection leading to emotional safety and comfort. Unfortunately, the converse is also true. When we don’t feel at ease with our loved one, it may signal distress in the bond. Sometimes, there may be an area or two that need some discussion to relieve the stress. However, when we find ourselves with multiple stressors, it may be time to reach for help.
- You find yourself “watching” what you say. Maybe you feel like you “walk on eggshells.” Or perhaps you find that you regularly measure your words for there not to be “a scene.” Either way, it’s not easy to speak your heart or mind to your partner.
- You don’t feel “heard” or “understood.” Does the partner you care about consistently cut you off? Do they seem to redirect your comments to focus on themselves, or worse, blame you? Do you feel dismissed or acknowledged after you speak? Do you leave conversations feeling better or more dissatisfied?
- Your arguments become critical, hurtful, bitter, defensive. When a disagreement arises, are you able to remain respectful and thoughtful of the other? Or does it get personal? Do sarcasm and “zingers” dominate the exchange? Are voices raised, or are they calm? Do you feel like it is necessary to explain or defend yourself? If any of these occur consistently in your relationship, it will be difficult to reach resolution.
- You argue about the same things again and again without resolution. The sign of a healthy relationship is not the absence of conflict but how well disputes are resolved. Are you and your spouse caught in a cycle that never ends? Or do you work out a solution that honors both of you when disagreements arise?
- Intimacy has turned to distance. Do you feel more isolated from your spouse? Are you involved in more separate activities than you used to be? Is there more silence than sharing? Do you feel closer to them or farther away? It is painful to want closeness but have disconnection keep you apart.
- You can’t share your “true self.” Does your partner “get you?” Can you be yourself, or do you need to hide your feelings, thoughts, or ideas? Are all parts of yourself accepted? Do you feel valued for just being yourself? When in a relationship where we aren’t accepted or where we are not accepting of the other person, we can find ourselves attempting #7.
- You are trying to control or change each other. In your interactions do you find yourselves making “suggestions” to change how the other person looks, acts, or thinks? Do you find yourself irritated or dissatisfied with “little things” and considering how to get your loved one to make adjustments? Are you hoping to “be an influence” in shaping them in some way?
- You find yourself saying, “I’m done” or “I don’t care anymore.” Are you feeling burned out in the relationship? Have you lost your desire to try? When you consider your partner, do you feel a familiar spark of affection or, instead, apathy? This is a particularly vulnerable place in a marriage as the loneliness can be overwhelming at times. When these thoughts come, it can be tempting to walk away. But is there a part of you that is willing to give it another chance with help?
- You don’t respond to each other’s needs. Do you hear or notice your loved one’s needs? Are they attentive to yours? When you do notice, do you make each other a priority? Are you concerned about each other’s well-being and ready to act?
- You find yourselves drifting apart. Is your spouse in your thoughts regularly, or do you experience sadness or shock when you realize they aren’t? Is there a sense of “not knowing” each other anymore? If so, do you still want to know them? Has your relationship gone beyond a feeling of distance to a greater sense of living separate lives? Often, couples assume this is the end of the relationship. But it doesn’t have to be. Many marriages have come back once they’ve explored what has come between them and how to get their “mojo” again.
All relationships go through ups and downs. And all relationships have areas that need strengthening. So if you respond with a yes to one or two of these questions, it’s OK. Perhaps you can discuss your challenges and decide how you’d like to approach matters. However, if you answer in the affirmative in several areas or if addressing any of the above seems overwhelming, it may be time to seek support from a professional. Our team at Family Renewal Counseling has therapists who specialize in marriage therapy and would be happy to help. Give us a call.