Couples Therapy: How do you know if you need it?
If the thought of attending couples therapy seems overwhelming and daunting, you’re not alone. While couples therapy is quite often very valuable and useful for repairing, futureproofing, or just enhancing an already strong relationship, it’s common for people to be initially hesitant about attending therapy.
What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is a form of psychotherapy in which a romantic couple attend sessions to help improve their relationship and/or resolve any interpersonal issues, complications, or problems.
The benefits of couples therapy
There are many benefits to couples therapy and though many of them may apply to you and your partner, the exact benefits you’ll receive will largely depend on the reason for you attending.
- Improve interpersonal communication and skills.
- Help discover the real cause of conflict and problem solve the issue.
- Promote a better understanding of each other.
- Encourage acceptance of each other.
- Provides a trained, independent, and professional third party to provide confidential support.
- Improve intimacy in a relationship, emotionally and physically.
- Enhance the strength of a relationship.
- Can help resolve issues or restore an erosion of trust.
- Safe and comforting environment to deal with difficult and hurtful issues.
When do you need couples therapy?
Like with most things in life, prevention is better than a cure. To that end, it can be thought that couples therapy is needed before it is needed. If that makes sense.
Small issues that are resolved effectively won’t have a chance to snowball into bigger, more emotional, and more devastating issues.
Having said that, not everyone may feel it necessary to seek professional help in couples therapy.
To help you out, we’ve listed some of the most common reasons and signs that you may need or benefit from couples therapy.
Let’s start with an obvious sign. Romantic relationships are intimate, and intimacy demands a level of trust in one another. That trust takes form in many ways. There’s trust regarding everything from secrets shared to sexual fidelity. There are plenty of other issues that rely on an underlying level of trust. Money-related issues are caused by a lack of trust and/or honesty with one another. Emotional cheating can also cause a rift in a relationship, as can general deception and repeated lying. If your relationship is suffering from a lack of or broken trust, couples therapy could really be of assistance.
Arguments will always happen in any relationship. After all, we’re all human. Yet one sign that you and your partner may need to consider couples therapy is a pattern of frequent and repeated arguments day to day. If the arguments tend to really spiral out of control and seem to tally up much higher than the normal number of conflicts, there is probably a deeper problem. Couples therapy can help you work out the deeper issues that is causing your relationship to orient itself around arguments and develop a plan to improve that aspect of the relationship.
Circling the same arguments
Like the pervasiveness of repeated arguments, if you and your partner find yourselves having the same argument again and again and again, something deeper might be the matter. If you tend to fight about the same issue, whether it’s small and seemingly insignificant or not, and can’t move past it, a couples therapist can help you work on practical solutions to resolve and move past the problem.
Communication in all its forms, verbal, non-verbal, physical, and interpersonal, plays an integral role in a relationship. When there is a lack of communication or bad communication, there’s bound to be a lot of opportunity for misunderstandings and potential for resentment. Bad communication can leave one party in a relationship feeling particularly ignored by an emotionally distant partner. This lack of affection and increased separation (emotionally if not physically) can erode relationships and build up into much bigger issues over time. Couples therapy can provide essential strategies for improving communication.
Dealing with issues
Another sign that couples therapy could be of benefit to your relationship is when you feel like there is an issue or problem but are unable to confront it. Perhaps you don’t know how to articulate or put your finger on the problem. Perhaps you aren’t sure how to approach it. Maybe you’re not confident in being confrontational or just would feel more comfortable in a professional and safe environment. Couples therapy provides that safe space and offers an opportunity for both parties to confront and resolve issues they may be experiencing.
Needing help to resolve an issue
In some instances, a couple may know and agree about a certain issue and may even have no hesitation in bringing it up with one another but are simply unable to resolve the problem. This isn’t a bad reflection on anyone! Arguments do happen and they can require resolutions that can be tricky for someone involved in the conflict to work out. Therapists are trained in bring practical resolutions to the table that could help you resolve the issue and move forwards productively and positively.
Relationships are put under a lot of pressure. Life can be tough and unrelenting and at the centre of that is your intimate relationship. When you live together, work hard, lead different lives, have different preferences, cope with things differently, want different things or need different things, it can put a lot of stress on the fabric of your relationship. This can often to lead to a general lack of satisfaction in the relationship itself or dysfunctional and impractical living arrangements. Unhealthy patterns—such as avoiding one another—can develop and only intensify the divide, whether you’re aware of it or not. Breaking that pattern can require a professional, deft touch in the form of a couples therapist.
Romantic relationships require a level of emotional intimacy. Sometimes a relationship that started off with each partner feeling like they’d found their soul mates can devolve into one devoid of romantic sparks. This isn’t always caused by a falling out or singular event. You might slowly drift apart over time or develop different wants, needs, goals or beliefs that no longer seem as compatible as before. Ignoring these sorts of issues can cause larger rifts further down the track so it’s well worth taking advantage of the guidance and help a couples therapist can bring to the table.
Physical intimacy issues
Sometimes physical or sexual intimacy is not the cause of the relationship’s problems but rather a symptom. Other issues that have developed over time might create physical intimacy problems which only further feeds back into the original feelings of emotional distance or other intimacy problems. Additionally, a lack of physical intimacy—not of a sexual nature—can also have surprisingly sever repercussions to the overall strength of a relationship. Your therapist is a completely confidential and sensitive professional regarding all your intimacy and relationship issues and is focused solely on helping you to work them out in the best way possible.
Change is stressful and can often put a lot of additional pressure on a relationship. Whether you’re relocating, dealing with work issues, or coping with family or social changes, it can be hard to not let that affect your romantic relationship. Couples therapy is an effective way of helping resolve such issues to prevent bigger and more damaging frustrations down the line, or even to avoid them altogether.
Lies and deception aside, finances are a leading cause of problems in relationships. Different attitudes towards spending or saving money, general feelings about not having enough money, or feelings of being out of control can cause large rifts in a relationship. Professional help can provide much needed solutions and help develop understandings in a sensitive yet no less impactful way.
As we mentioned before, clear, and honest communication forms the bedrock of a relationship. The existence of secrets, even small ones, can create issues and test the strength of a relationship. If you find yourself keeping secrets from your partner or find that your partner is keeping secrets from you, couples therapy will be invaluable in working out a way of moving forwards in an open and transparent relationship.
There are two problematic aspects of criticism in a relationship. The first problem arises is when you are simply unable to handle any criticism, even if it’s constructive. If you find yourself getting overly angry, upset, or defensive, or tend to become aggressive, it might be a sign that something more is wrong. Retreating and shutting down in the face of criticism is also an unhealthy sign.
The flip side to this problem is if you find yourself being overly, unnecessarily, or cruelly critical of your partner. While in the heat of the moment it might seem justified, being critical is an unhelpful and damaging biproduct of a bigger problem. Your couples therapist can help you develop strategies for dealing with both receiving criticism and the temptation to dish it out.
No one is perfect. Your partner is not perfect and—surprise, surprise—neither are you. When you find that you’re increasingly losing patience with your partner or vice versa over little and relatively unimportant things, it could be a sign of undue stress or distance. No one wants to be involved with someone who has no patience with them, and no one wants to be in a relationship with someone they have no patience for. Couples therapy will help you determine the real cause of a lack of patience in a partnership.
Social media problems
Social media might be relatively new to the scene, but the root causes it provokes is anything but new. Everyone uses social media differently and if two partners in a relationship are not in sync with what the other person posts, who they interact with, and how they use it, it can cause huge issues. For example, one party might not feel comfortable with the types of images that the other party shares. Or one person might interact with an ex which makes the other person feel insecure, unhappy, and jealous. Couples therapy will help you confront the issues underlying these social media conflicts and work on a productive and practical resolution.
We all grow and change over time. We grow as individuals and we grow in a relationship. Bad relationships that stifle or inhibit growth is not just unhealthy and unhelpful, it is also not likely to be very sustainable in the long run. Individuals should feel empowered to grow and change for the positive, without having to feel self-conscious or inhibited or belittled for that. Attending couples therapy can help with personal and relationship growth issues.
Apathy might not seem like a big issue compared to other signs on this list, but it can be just as damaging in the long term. A lack of care in a relationship can cause issues to be ignored or left, until it can’t be ignored any longer and explodes. Even if there is no big conflict waiting down the other end, apathy can erode a relationship to the point where it either doesn’t really exists or exists in a seemingly unredeemable state. Couples therapy can help work out where the apathy comes from, which is the first step towards trying to find a resolution.
Lack of happiness
No one can expect life to be all sunshine and rainbows all the time. And no one can be happy all the time. But if you find yourself experiencing a profound lack of happiness in your relationship or have a general sense that something isn’t quite right, you could probably do with some professional help. Negative emotions, from resentment to disgust and everything in between, can affect the long-term success of a relationship. Positive, strong, and uplifting relationships should in turn bring happiness, joy, and contentment.
Thinking about separating or divorcing
We started with an obvious sign and we’re ending with an obvious one too. Or at least this one seems to be obvious. A lot of people might justify thoughts of separation and divorce as just “thinking about it” without actually “being serious”. The thought though can indicate that something identified or unacknowledged needs attention in a relationship. Remember: it’s not always the case that the best outcome of a relationship is its continuation. Sometimes a relationship can be saved. Sometimes the right answer—if such a thing even exists—is an amicable break up. The longer you wait though the more likely the result, whatever it is, is going to be more upsetting, hurtful, and disorientating. If you experience these sorts of thoughts or considerations, it’s worth pausing and thinking about what a couples therapist can do for you and your relationship.
Book your appointment today
Find out more about our couples therapy, counselling, and other psychotherapy services or give us a call on 08 9344 1318 to book an appointment today.