by Tammie McKay

No one goes into a relationship with the tools and knowledge needed to manage the many challenges that are to come. There is no “how to” book to purchase with step-by-step instructions or even to tell you when to seek help or counseling—but the answers to certain questions can be telling: Do you just continue through the everyday and accept that this is normal? Do you only talk things out with friends and not your spouse? Do you wonder who or where or how things went wrong? Maybe it is time for couples therapy.

The big question is: when do you know if it is time to consider marriage counseling? Here are a few signs that your relationship could use couples therapy:

You fight all the time – If you can’t have a conversation without a fight, it’s time to learn how to communicate more effectively. All couples will have fights from time to time, however, there are healthy and non-healthy ways. Therapy can teach you how to diminish arguments, speak calmly and treat each other with respect.

You feel you’re speaking different languages – Suddenly, what you are saying isn’t what your partner is hearing and vice versa. Therapy can help you understand the differences in communication styles and teach you to adapt to each other.

When you’re afraid to talk – This can be anything from money to sex to children to annoying habits; because, regardless of the topic, it seems to get blown out of proportion. A therapist can help you become clear about issues and understand what is truly being talked about.

When you pretend everything is fine – If you ignore important issues or pretend everything is ok, it might be time to consider therapy. A therapist can help you tackle issues head-on in safe, manageable ways.

If your sex life has changed significantly – Sex is one of the main reasons couples fight. After being together for a while, it is not unusual for sex to taper off, however a significant change is a signal that something is not right. There could be an underlying issue that therapy can help bring to light and work toward resolution.

When you’re living separate lives – Couples don’t have to do everything together, but if you are more like roommates than a couple, it is an indication that something is wrong. Therapy can help you sort out what is missing and help bring it back together.

If you have different views about finances – Most couples will have some sort of argument about money, one usually likes to spend while one likes to save. This is one of the biggest issues for any marriage and causes the most fights. Couples therapy can help you understand and compromise your finances.

You’re thinking about an affair – Fantasizing about an affair can occur for a number of reasons, but it’s usually a sign that something is broken in the relationship. If you are tempted to break the vows of marriage, it is better to seek counseling with your partner than to deal with the consequences later.

When you get more support outside of your relationship than from within – You shouldn’t expect your partner to meet your every need; however, if you feel unheard, misunderstood or disrespected, it’s time for counseling.

If your partner asks for couples therapy – When your partner asks to go to couples counseling, they are communicating that there is something wrong.

Couples counseling can be a huge benefit for any relationship, regardless of the severity. No relationship is consistently smooth sailing, problems can arise early on, after a long time of being together, or even from unexpected stresses. Just remember that a relationship is a living thing that needs to be nurtured, or it’s going to wither and die.