What a marriage counsellor won’t tell you

How can you figure out when fighting is a good thing? We asked doctors, psychologists, and professors—all experts in relationships. Find out this and much more with these 13 stable-union secrets that it’s never too late to know.

1. I love couples who fight in the waiting room

Angry couple

At least they still care about each other. If one or both of you seems indifferent, my job is a lot harder.


2. The early bird always catches the worm

The earlier you come in, the quicker you can get the problem solved, the less your therapy will cost.


3. I know when you're cheating

When you say your feelings “just aren’t there anymore,” I know you’re probably cheating.


4. Stop having sex 

No sex couple

Sometimes I’ll tell a couple “no sex until the next session. Don’t touch each other, period.” What I’m really hoping is that they’ll fail and feel a sense of unity from their mutual rebellion.


5. Oh just grow up!

What do I wish I could say? “Grow up!” “Stop whining!” “Get a life!” When I feel this way, I know I need a vacation.


6. Think you're the good one?

Don’t try to convince me you’re the good one. In most marriages, there isn’t a good one.


7. Sleep on it

Sleeping couple

Yes, you should go to bed angry. If you try to resolve everything before you hit the sack, you’ll both be sleep-deprived and cranky the next day. Instead, get a good night’s sleep and talk once you’re rested.


8. When things get nasty

Three signs that a couple is not going to succeed: namecalling, finger-pointing, and when one or both partners fails to accept even the tiniest bit of responsibility for the situation.


9. Busy, busy, busy

Sometimes two people love each other but have such different styles of living that I recommend they live together in a duplex. It sounds strange, but it works for some people.


10. You're not going to make it

No chance couple

I’ve seen couples I thought didn’t stand a chance end up staying together. Often it’s because they’re both willing to try. But sometimes it’s just that they are too dysfunctional to leave each other.


11. Your first, last and everything?

Don’t expect your spouse to be everything you need: your lover, your best friend, your massage therapist, and your confidant. You need other relationships outside your marriage to fill those roles.


12. Telepathic men

The big thing most women don’t understand: Men are not mind readers. If you don’t tell him how you feel, he’s not going to know. The big thing most men don’t understand: If you hardly acknowledge your wife all day, she’s not going to want to get intimate with you at night.


13. The past stays in the past

Say good bye couple

The person who complains about things that happened in the past is usually more of the problem than the spouse they’re complaining about. And if I ask you how long you’ve had problems and your answer is “ten years,” you’re not going to change things in ten minutes or ten sessions.



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Sources: Susan Fletcher, PhD, a psychologist in Dallas, Texas; Lawrence J. Levy, PsyD, a licensed psychologist in Boca Raton, Florida; Nancy Mramor, PhD, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Jeff Palitz, a marriage and family therapist in Chula Vista, California; Meghan L. Reitz, LCPC, NCC, in Schaumburg, Illinois; Karen Sherman, PhD, in New York, New York; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, a psychotherapist in Long Beach, California; and a marriage counselor in Pennsylvania.