When your relationship works, it's amazing. Everything feels easier in life and you're full of energy and excitement. You feel supported and nurtured, as if nothing could knock you down.
But when your relationship isn't at its best, it also seems to affect all areas of your life ... for the worse. You likely feel depressed, anxious and irritable; your work productivity suffers, you lack energy and you just don't want to be around people.
So how do you know if you're just experiencing some of the common ups and downs every couple goes through, or if it's more serious and you need professional help from a relationship therapist?
Here are seven signs that might indicate it's time to see a therapist so you and your partner can get your relationship back on track and start to feel the love for one another, for yourselves — and for life — again.
1. You're constantly fighting without aiming to find resolutions.
It's normal for every couple to have disagreements from time to time. But if you're feeling exhausted and hopeless from constantly fighting with your partner about things that never get resolved, then it's time to seek help. This is especially true if you find that you want to fight on some level, or that fighting is your normal mode of interacting with your partner.
Working with a trained relationship specialist can help you identify the negative patterns you're stuck in. After identifying the patterns, you can learn ways to rewire your communications to avoid creating unnecessary tension.
2. You're feeling disconnected, shut down or lonely.
The point of a relationship is to share your life with someone who cares about you, supports you and wants nothing but the best for you.
However, if you're frequently feeling disconnected, emotionally shut down or lonely in your relationship, something's not right that needs to be addressed.
Couples therapy can help you address the disconnection and help you forge a stronger reconnection so you both feel safe, secure and loved again.
3. You're totally passive about your sex life.
Every couple in a long-term relationship will experience periods where their sex life is less active than it was at the beginning. It's just not possible to maintain the intensity of passion and sex you had when you first met.
Life events, work stress, family obligations, or a decline in physical health can all impact your sex life. But the key is to be able to reconnect sexually and emotionally when you can. This requires effort, which doesn't mean it won't be fun. But both of you need to be willing to put in the effort to cultivate more dynamism in the bedroom.
If your sex life has become so infrequent that you struggle to remember the last time you had sex, relationship therapy can help. Addressing emotional intimacy and communication can be helpful in invigorating the spark back in your sex life.
4. You frequently feel insecure, clingy or jealous of your partner.
I often work with couples where insecurity and jealousy has become a big issue, to the extent where one partner ends up spying on the other partner through social media accounts, dating apps and emails.
If you are frequently having a melt down over smalls things such as your partner making new friendships, spending time with work colleagues or communicating with an ex, then you need to seek help. Don't let unfounded jealousy and insecurity erode the wonderful relationship you've created together.
5. You can't move past wounds from previous relationships.
Each of us has a history that we've experienced before we start a new relationship. And unfortunately, sometimes that history is unfinished.
Sometimes your current partner can trigger feelings that are unresolved from a previous relationship. If you get to the point where you're constantly feeling hurt and in pain with your current partner, and you suspect it might be related to a past relationship, it's time to address the issue in therapy.
In this case, it might be beneficial to do individual therapy so you can finally get closure about your past relationship and focus on building a strong new relationship in the present.
6. You're running away or avoiding conflict.
Some people are naturally conflict-avoidant and this can cause problems in a relationship. Of course, constant fighting isn't the solution either, but communicating about relevant issues in the relationship is a fundamental ingredient to an honest, authentic connection.
At one time or another, every couple has to have difficult conversations or make hard decisions that require each of you to manage your anxieties and forge ahead through tension.
If you or your partner are constantly running away from dealing with conflict, this can be potentially harmful for your relationship in the long run.
Relationship therapy can help you to learn effective conflict resolution skills so you can deal with challenging conversations and come out the other side stronger than before.
7. You feel scared to be totally vulnerable.
For your relationship to be successful in the long run, you have to learn to be open and vulnerable with your partner to build emotional intimacy.
Emotional vulnerability and openness is a key ingredient to truly being known by another person who loves you. If you often feel closed, defensive, or avoidant when it comes to being close to your partner, you will gradually break down what you have built by allowing the foundation of connection to erode.
Relationship therapy can help you learn how to be more open with your partner in a safe and secure way, so vulnerability becomes a strength, not a liability.
Remember, relationship therapy is not only for couples in total crisis. Even if you have a good relationship, it's totally normal that there are issues that may feel insurmountable at times. If you are happy with your partner but know that you want to make your connection even deeper and better, therapy can help you build a stronger relationship that will provide you with long-term happiness and satisfaction, and the tools to keep that happiness alive through thick and thin.