4 Painfully Honest Signs Even Couples Therapy Can't Fix Your Relationship

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Unhappy Couple

When your relationship is hitting a wall over and over again, marriage counseling or couples therapy is usually the next step. During this time, you're likely asking yourself a lot of questions about how you feel about ending your marriage, but the biggest one is: "Should I get a divorce?" So how do you know when your marriage is over? It's a big and sometimes painful decision to make.

There are a few ways you can tell for sure that your married life is coming to an end, but if you don't know what to look for, it's going to be difficult to spot. While going to couples counseling might drag things out for a little longer, there are certain behaviors that almost guarantee that even a marriage counselor can't patch the divide with well-crafted and sound marriage advice. But if you aren’t a professional couples therapist, how can you spot those same signs for yourself?

Here are 4 sad signs even couples therapy can't fix your relationship:

1. You (or your partner) think the other is a hot mess

When you and your partner lose respect for one another, your relationship is bound to fail. You will start criticizing one another with comments like, “You never help me,” or “You always ignore me.” These sentences inflict pain because they tear a person down and don’t focus on what a person did well. This is not how to fix a broken marriage. It will only cause you both pain.



There is a huge difference between pointing out a behavior that bothers you and attacking that individual personally. Healthy couples also have disagreements, but they discuss them without demeaning one another. When you have so little respect for each other, your union is in real trouble.

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2. You (or your partner) turn on one another

When Tina says, “David, you never listen to what I say,” David feels attacked and goes on the defensive, so he lashes out at Tina, saying, “Hey, what about you? You don’t care about my thoughts at all." That type of exchange won’t help heal the situation or move a relationship to a better place. Each time you respond to hurtful comments with a counterattack, your relationship will sail into even rougher waters.

If you'd like to know how to save your marriage, instead of engaging in a similar nasty exchange that only damages your relationship further, you must learn how to communicate without attacking one another. A person in a healthy relationship will highlight feelings and point out behaviors, by saying things like, "I’m upset that you focused on yourself this afternoon. You didn’t seem interested at all in how my meeting went. That hurt me a lot.”

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3. You (or your partner) feel superior

When you feel that you are smarter or more important than your partner, you are more likely to mock them, put them down, and dismiss their complaints and feelings. That’s a recipe for disaster. For a relationship to thrive, especially over the long haul, partners need to respect one another. You both need to feel that you are better together than apart. It is true that some years are more challenging than others, like when the kids are little or when there is a financial scare, but relationships thrive when you both respect one another as true teammates.



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4. Your partner (or you) turn away from one another

When you voice a concern and your partner ignores you, walks out of the room, or starts checking their cell phone, how does it feel? Psychologist John Gottman calls this type of behavior “stonewalling,” and it hurts. Research shows that after a man stonewalls his partner, both of their heart rates climb. People think less clearly when their hearts are racing, so the words that follow this type of interaction are likely to be even less considerate.

So does couples therapy work? In many situations, it can provide lasting comfort and open communication techniques, but both partners have to be willing to work together. There is a lot that couples therapists can do, but they can’t work magic. If you're asking yourself, "Is my marriage over?" check the above signs. When respect exits a relationship, there may be no turning back.

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Janis Roszler is a licensed marriage and family therapist, board-certified therapist, author, and award-winning medical media producer. She travels internationally as a speaker on relationships and health-related topics.