A week before I got married one of my mentors made me promise to an unusual agreement.
"On your second anniversary," he said, "Give you and your husband the gift of going to a marriage therapist together. You'll be married long enough by that point to have had some major conflicts, but not married so long as to be too stuck in bad habits."
That strange counsel is the best marriage advice I received while engaged. But therapy isn't free, and it's not like most of us have money to burn. How do you know when it's time to visit a therapist before it's too late? Here are four questions to ask yourself.
Do I feel slightly disconnected to my spouse?
Don't wait for a major issue or complete disconnect to happen before you seek counseling. Licensed couples therapist Ian Kerner said that when couples wait too long, they often miss the core issue in the relationship and instead, focus on the symptoms caused by it.
"It's common for one partner to be unhappy, feel disconnected or feel that their needs for intimacy aren't being met," Kerner wrote for CNN. "But rather than communicate about it, that partner may open up a metaphorical window with someone else and begin an affair. By the time the couple comes to therapy, the affair itself becomes the main topic, and its underlying causes are often ignored."
Do I want to learn healthier communication skills?
Therapy is too often looked at as something only the sick or "crazy" go to. That mentality needs to change.
"Every couple should take preventive measures to maintain health in their relationship, just like going to the gym," marriage and family therapist Ashley N. Grinonneau-Denton told CNN. "If couples don't work their relational and emotional 'muscles,' they become un-toned, weak and create more of a chance of damage being done to their relationship."
Are you struggling to do the things you used to love?
Dr. David Sack said losing your desire to do things that used to bring you a lot of joy could indicate it's time to visit a therapist. This symptom often signifies there's something off in your life - even if you haven't realized it yet.
Have you or your spouse lost yourself?
Sometimes you can't remember who you are, or you wonder what happened to the old you. At times this can be invigorating. At other times it can make you feel listless. It might feel silly going to a therapist without any specific "problem," but mental health therapist Jessie Shepherd said finding yourself again is something a therapist can help with.
"Therapists can help you gain an objective assessment of your life and who you are along with your goals and who you would like to be," she wrote.
Don't let social taboos keep you from going to a therapist, no matter how long (or not-long) you've been married. If you and your spouse try out a therapy session, we'd love to hear what it's done for you.