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Your Relationship Check-up Is Long Overdue

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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 desperation.

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 each other.

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 prognosis.

But what if Joanna and Bernie had been going for an annual relationship check-up?

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 up.

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 relationship aliments.

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 more frequently;

~You've noticed that your wife has been withdrawing from you and avoiding intimacy;

~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.

Visit 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.

As a bonus, you will receive the popular free reports: "The four mindsets that can topple your relationship" and "Relationship self-defense: Control the way you argue before your arguments control you."

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 relationships.

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