Couples counseling can provide a safe space to talk about scary things. It can teach you tools to change those negative communication patterns. It can help you feel close and connected to your partner again.
All that being said, it’s not easy. It will take hard work, time and commitment.
How can I tell if couples therapy will be right for me?
First off, if you think couples therapy may be right for you many therapists will offer free consultations. I encourage you to find someone in your area that has experience working with couples and reach out to them with your specific concerns.
Below is a list of things that can bring a couple in for counseling. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can give you an idea about some of the concerns that can be addressed in couples therapy.
15 reasons to seek couples therapy
Your sex life needs help
In a relationship, each person will undoubtedly have different sexual needs. It’s important to be able to talk about what you want and ask for what you need. Sometimes if there’s lots of conflict it can be hard to connect sexually with your partner. If your sex life has hit a lull and you’re not sure how to move forward, couples therapy can be a great way to move the needle on this topic.
You’re fighting. A lot.
All couples have conflict. However, if the fights are getting worse or it’s hard to focus on other aspect of your life it could be time to seek support. There are plenty of tools available to learn how to listen and respond to each other in a respectful, authentic and meaningful way. Yelling at each other, name calling and other ineffective ways of communicating will continue to push you further apart.
Your partner feels distant
People react in different ways to pain. Some people get angry and others pull away. If you notice that your partner is pulling away, that could be a sign your relationship needs attention. If your partner is working later or scheduling more trips, that could be sign that they are pulling away. Shutting down in conflict is a coping skill that some people use, and at times it can cause strain on relationships.
You’ve had an affair or betrayal
There are different ways that people cope with relationship stress and one of those ways is having an affair or betraying their partner’s trust. Once trust has been broken, it can be challenging to rebuilt it. However, there’s probably an underlying reason why the betrayal happened in the first place and that’s important to understand that reason, too.
You’re having an emotional affair
An emotional affair is something that can develop in place of intimacy and connection in your primary relationship. If you’re fighting a lot with your partner or they are emotionally distant, it can be tempting to replace them with someone else. However, this does not solve the main issue and can be very hurtful in the end.
You’re lying to your partner
If you find yourself lying to your partner, it’s probably a good idea to seek couples therapy. Whether you’re telling small white lies or large, more damaging untruths, this could be a sign of something more important that needs attention. If you’re not able to be your full authentic self in your relationship, intimacy and connection will quickly evaporate.
You’re having the same fight over and over
We all know the routine. It’s the same fight, over and over. Maybe it’s about the dishes or your mother-in-law, but it never seems to change. The good news is that the pattern can be altered, but it will take work. There is a problem somewhere in the communication chain that needs to be addressed and changed.
A major life change is causing stress
Life events like moving, changing jobs, getting married or having a child can cause immense stress on your relationship. If you notice that you’re pulling apart or fighting more around a life event, it can be important to get more support. Major life events can be bonding moments, or they can pull you apart. What do you want to happen?
Someone is struggling with addiction
Addiction can be devastating to couples and families. It’s crucial that you get support with something this intense. Addiction doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship, but it will take hard work to change ingrained patterns and ways of coping. Couples therapy will usually not be enough on its own to help with addiction, but it can be a good place to start.
Other communication problems
Communication problems is often an umbrella term used to describe feeling dismissed or unheard by your partner. A pattern of repetitive fighting is a communication problem, but so is a pattern of distancing and shutting down. If you feel that it’s difficult to have small or large conversations, that could be an indicator of a communication problem in your relationship.
Talking about money is hard! Finances can be even more complicated to talk about than sex. Our views around money are emotionally linked to security, safety and trust. We develop these points-of-view early on in our families growing up and it can be hard to talk about them with our partners. Do you and your partner have an open dialogue about money and finances? Are you clouded with shame about the topic? Couples therapy can help open up the conversation around money.
Rehashing old resentments
When there has been a relationship rupture in the past like cheating, lying or cruel behavior it can be hard to move forward. In order to put the past behind you, you have to heal the wounds. That will mean tough conversations, courage and hard work. Each member of the couple has to be willing to look at their part in keep the past alive.
You’re scared of anger
Anger can be a scary thing in relationships. While it is impossible to control which feelings you have, it is possible to control how you communicate them. Uncontrolled anger can be corrosive in a relationship. When you’re angry it can be easy to communicate in poor ways. However, if you’re scared of anger that can lead to a pattern of conflict avoidance. Avoiding conflict can lead to a cycle of resentment. Couples therapy can help you face your fears about anger and build up the courage to talk about tough things.
You get defensive
It’s easy to get defensive in heated conversations with our partners. However, when we get defensive we go offline and we’re not able to hear and understand what our partner is saying. We’re busy trying to protect ourselves and it can be hard to make good decisions when we’re in fight, flight or freeze mode.
You get sucked into the blame game
Blame can be a toxic communication tactic in close relationships. When you feel blamed you typically will become defensive. Blame is the process of pointing fingers and it prevents you from having open and honest conversations about your wants and needs. When blame enters the room, you both lose.
In the end…
Maybe the list above will encourage you to seek out professional help and find more support in your relationship. With more tools and understanding you can improve your relationship and start the process of healing and growth as a couple. For more about what to expect in couples therapy, check out this article.