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In the Raw: 7 signs you need couples counseling

If your relationship is on the rocks, you might start to question whether or not you’re in the right situation. Before you throw in the towel, you should definitely consider couples counseling, which can help you learn to change your patterns as a couple and start to move forward in a more healthy way.

If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re in trouble, here are the signs that you need to seek counseling together:

1. Your partner suggests couples counseling: If your partner suggests counseling, this is a sign that things haven't quite been corrected in the relationship. People don't suggest working with a professional when the relationship has a solid connection. It is very common that one partner will cry out for help and the other person completely misses the critical issues until years later, once the relationship has become entirely unraveled. Take the suggestion of couples counseling seriously when your partner brings it up.

2. The relationship is sexless: One of the signs that a relationship is dwindling is a lack of intimacy in the bedroom. In a secure relationship, both emotional closeness and sexual closeness keep things balanced. Intimacy can go in waves through the years, but if there is an ongoing drought that lasts months or years, this is a sign to seek professional help.

3. You become burned-out: Going from completely engaged and seeking closeness to a completely "burned-out" position is a danger zone. When this happens, you may not have given up on the relationship, but you are unwilling to expose any vulnerable needs or to rely on your partner. It’s a sign that things have been changing and you could be going down a dangerous road, headed towards complete disconnection. This is a critical time for couples to seek counseling and get both people to re-engage in the relationship.

4. There’s been infidelity: This may be a no-brainer for some people, but affairs are signs that couples counseling is necessary. Whether the affair was just revealed, or you are currently active in the affair, it is critical to understand why this happened in the first place and heal any emotional injuries. Many couples think that they can simply lock up the past by saying "I am sorry" and then move on. In reality, affairs are very fragile situations where the repair work is critical and must handled in a healing way. Every second counts when rebuilding trust and regaining security in a relationship. Moving on doesn't mean shutting the door to pain, but it also doesn't mean you relive the pain over and over. Seeking counseling helps couples handle the fears and emotions that arise in the present and take action to create a longterm resolution.

5. You’re seeking comfort from others: When either you or your partner quickly go to friends or family before turning to the relationship, you should seek counseling. When we no longer turn to one another to resolve issues and instead turn to others for support, a wedge is created in the relationship. Sometimes it becomes easier and easier to turn to others and this can quickly snowball into a drawn out relationship that dissolves over time.

6. You’re fantasizing or beginning to have feelings for others: Thoughts can be thoughts and sometimes are simply just that. But other times a fantasy leads us to an exciting place where it would be easy to cross the line if the opportunity were to arise. It is vital to get at the heart of why you get so excited when your co-worker sends you a text, or a friend calls you. If your relationship was solid and secure, you wouldn’t consider being with someone else. Something significant is going on, and things are lacking in your current relationship. Start couples counseling to figure out what you aren't getting from your partner and give your partner an opportunity to get it right with you before it is too late.

7. The fighting is bad: When fights continue to go to bad places, either verbally or physically, couples counseling is essential. The more attacks you take at one another, the more you drive each other away and develop a bad habit when it comes to communication. Anytime the relationship becomes degrading or hurtful, it is time to seek some expert advice on how to stop the damage and to revive the relationship.

Couples counseling will help you get back on track when the security in your relationship begins to dwindle. Before your relationship is pushed to the brink of destruction, visit a counselor to learn better communication skills and get to the bottom of your issues.

If you're in San Diego and need help working through anger in your relationship, contact me today and let's see if I can help.

Jennine Estes is a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) in San Diego with a private practice in Mission Valley. She has appeared as a Relationship Expert in Redbook Magazine, Martha Stewart Publications' Whole Living Magazine, Social Work Today Magazine, local San Diego news stations, and more. To learn more relationship advice from the author Jennine Estes MFC#47653, visit her relationship column Relationships in the Raw or her new San Diego Couples Therapy website.