By: Richard Nicastro, Ph.D.
No one can deny the benefit of
preventive medicine. First of all, it's often easier to prevent an
illness than it is to cure it--that's why you go in for your annual
physical (or why you should). And we all can agree that feeling
healthy is preferable to feeling sick. So looking out for potential
illnesses before they take over your life is the reasoning
behind the medical check-up.
But when was your last relationship check-up?
Everyone needs a Relationship Check-up…
Unfortunately, couples and couples counselors have not adopted the
philosophy of the regular physical for relationships. Most often,
the approach is to wait for problems to arise, persist, and then
to seek help. To compound the problem, most marriage counseling is
focused exclusively on the presenting complaint--this
problem-centered focus often obscures any resilient aspects of a
relationship that already exist, ones that might be used in a
healthy way. This sends the message that couples should only seek
counseling or give their relationship close attention when a crisis
arises. Couples counseling is seen as a last resort, an act of
Shouldn't there be an alternative to this approach?
The typical journey to marriage counseling:
Meet Joanna and Bernie—the "every" couple.
Like many modern-day couples who try to juggle numerous commitments
and responsibilities, Joanna and Bernie have their share of stress.
And this stress has taken a toll on them. Over time, their
relationship has suffered.
Depending on circumstances, relationship problems surfaced but then
seemed to disappear…only to resurface at some later point. As
time passed, this pattern intensified and became more frequent,
often with no resolution. The vitality and life that was once a part
of their relationship started to give way to hurt feelings, then
withdrawal and finally indifference. As their marriage became more
painful, Joanna and Bernie started to channel their energies
elsewhere: Work-related activities, parenting and/or time spent with
family and friends supplanted the time that was once spent enjoying
As unresolved issues continued to fester, the familiar relationship
that once offered comfort and meaning was nowhere to be found.
Beleaguered and hopeless, it became painfully obvious to Joanna and
Bernie that marriage counseling was needed if they wanted to head
off a divorce.
Couples often endure an agonizing existence for years before
seeking help—and like a slowly developing medical problem, the more
time that elapses before seeking treatment, the poorer the
But what if Joanna and Bernie had been going for an annual
Isn't it possible that their marriage problems could have been
identified early on and Joanna and Bernie been given the
tools needed to tackle these issues?
Unfortunately, few options exist for couples who want to evaluate
the overall health of their relationship before problems crop
When is a problem a "real" problem?
There is a level of decisiveness when someone is dealing with a
physical aliment: if you develop a pounding headache that won't go
away, you call your doctor; when you injure your back to the point
where you can hardly move, you see a specialist immediately.
This level of decisiveness is lacking when it comes to
Some couples quarrel often and still have strong relationships;
however, conflict can signal the start of significant trouble for
others. Some couples make love infrequently but still feel fulfilled
and connected with each other, while for other couples, a lack of
physical intimacy is a sign that help is needed. In other words, a
problem for one couple isn't necessarily a problem for another.
Would you call a counselor for a relationship check-up if you
faced any of the following?
~Lately your marriage seems less fulfilling;
~You start wondering if this is all that love has to offer;
~Over the last few months, you and your husband have been arguing
~You've noticed that your wife has been withdrawing from you and
~When you have the choice, you prefer spending time with friends
rather than with your partner;
~You find that you have no desire to make love to your husband.
If you answered "no" to the above question (whether or not you'd
call a professional if you faced any of the aforementioned issues),
you're not alone. And quite frankly, your marriage or relationship
might be fine in spite of any one of the above concerns. But then
again, one of these observations might also signal that your
relationship needs some attention. This is why ongoing
attention is so vital for the health of your relationship.
What a Relationship Check-up Can Do for You:
A relationship check-up should focus on all aspects of your
relationship—highlighting what is working well, each person's unique
strengths, how these strengths can best be utilized in the
relationship, as well as any areas that might need attention so
problems can be prevented. Couples can leave a relationship
check-up invigorated and with a plan of action that will help them
keep their marriage or relationship moving in the right direction.
This preventive medicine approach is a healthy alternative to "just
putting up with" relationship problems before seeking help.
http://StrengthenYourRelationship.com to schedule your free
relationship check-up. And don't forget to sign up for Dr.
Nicastro's Relationship Toolbox Newsletter.
and sign up for Dr.
Nicastro's FREE Relationship Toolbox Newsletter.
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self-defense: Control the way you argue before your arguments
Richard Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist and relationship coach who
is passionate about helping couples protect the sanctuary of their
relationship. Rich and his wife Lucia founded LifeTalk Coaching, an
internet-based coaching business that helps couples strengthen their