There is a common misconception about couples therapy that keeps many relationships from reaping the benefits: people often think there needs to be something drastically wrong in their relationship before they seek help. But in my experience, there are often small signs you need couples therapy early on.
In fact, in my years as a couple therapist, those couples that proactively seek help at the first sign of difficulties are the ones with the best relationships and the best outcomes after therapy.
If you’ve been thinking about your relationship and wondering, “Should we go to couples therapy?,” then there’s a good chance you could benefit from it.
So, when should you go to couples therapy? Let’s explore this question a little bit further before jumping into some of the signs you need marriage counseling or relationship therapy.
When Should You Go to Couples Therapy?
Think of your relationship like a car. Your car needs gas in the tank to run, right? Similarly, when you are in a relationship, you need positive, loving experiences to fill up your “love tank” or things start to break down.
Your car also needs oil changes and regular maintenance. Unless you are a mechanic, you probably bring your car to an expert to keep it running smoothly. If you have never learned how to fix or maintain a car, you would never try to do it yourself. Your car is a very expensive piece of property so you treat it with care. Then why treat the most important relationship of your life any differently?
Couples therapists have seen every issue you are dealing with and many more. They are trained to help identify signs you need couples therapy and to help you get through the tough times.
Sometimes all you need is a quick tune-up and sometimes you need a major overhaul. Either way, don’t hesitate to reach out for some guidance from an expert in times of trouble. The rule of thumb is if you are thinking about couples therapy, you probably need it.
In other words, if you researched “signs you need couples therapy” to find this article, then it’s probably time to find a couples therapist online or near you.
Still not sure if you need a relationship tune up? Here are 7 signs you need couples therapy:
1. You are navigating a new phase in your life.
Change can be stressful, even when it is a positive change. Life milestones or changes such as getting married, having a baby, loss of a family member, illness, moving, a new job, or retirement can all put a strain on your relationship. Major life changes often put added pressure on the relationship causing one or both of you to feel the need for some added support. Experiencing one of this big life changes as a couple or an individual is often a good sign you need couples therapy – especially if you’re struggling to navigate it.
2. The negative experiences outweigh the positive.
Research shows that healthy relationships have 5 positive experiences to every 1 negative. If this balance is out of whack, you would likely benefit from couples therapy.
3. You are constantly bickering and arguing.
You and your partner should be on the same team, not enemies. Rather than look for everything that is wrong with each other, look for everything that is right. If your relationship consists of constant bickering, one upping each other, and arguing, it’s one of the best signs you need couples therapy.
4. You avoid talking about issues.
If you find yourself skirting around issues or lying to avoid conflict, it’s time to get help with your communication as a couple. Likewise, if you end up fighting every time one of you brings up an issue rather than talking about it calmly and rationally, it’s time to learn some new problem solving techniques.
When should you go to couples therapy for communication issues? As soon as you realize there’s an issue! A good therapist can teach you ways of communicating that will last long after you finish therapy.
5. You have the same argument over and over again with no resolution.
When arguments come up repeatedly with no resolution, it’s usually because the issue is rooted in your history as individuals rather than current problems in your relationship. It’s also one of the most common signs you need couples therapy.
Many times we choose partners who are uniquely suited to reopen our past childhood emotional wounds. A skilled couples therapist will help you learn how to become less triggered by your partner. For more on this, read my blog post How Your Childhood is Affecting Your Romantic Relationship and What to Do About It.
6. You feel more like roommates than lovers.
That lovey dovey feeling that comes so naturally in the beginning of a relationship takes a little bit of work to manufacture as time goes on. But will couples therapy work if you feel like the spark is gone? It definitely can! A couples therapist can help you identify the challenges that may be causing you to feel like roommates and help you rekindle the romance.
7. One or both of you is having or contemplating an affair.
Many people don’t realize how many relationships recover and even become stronger and happier after an affair. Three quarters of couples who go through infidelity end up working it out and staying together. Still, infidelity – or even thinking about an affair – is one of the strongest signs you need couples therapy.
The recovery after an affair is long and hard, but a good therapist can help you look at why the affair happened and repair what was missing from your relationship in the first place, leaving you more connected and happier than you were before.
When To Start Couples Therapy
If one or several of these points resonates with you, it’s probably a good sign you need marriage counseling or couples therapy.
But when should you go to couples therapy? I always urge couples to go sooner rather than later. The average couple waits 6 years from the time they notice a problem until they get therapy and often at that point, it’s too late.
If you wait until one or both of you wants to break up or you are so angry and resentful you can’t be reasonable, it makes couples therapy more difficult and often, less effective.
There are many couples therapy benefits – the most important being a happier, more connected and more fulfilling relationship. There will always be couples who try therapy and still break up. But if you’re wondering, “is couples therapy worth it?,” chances are – it will be.
Once you’ve decided there are enough signs you need couples therapy and you want to give it a try, check out this blog on How To Pick A Couples or Marriage Counselor for tips on how the find the right fit in a therapist. Whether you want to try online couples therapy or find a relationship counselor near you, there are many options.
Our team at Couples Learn is also always happy to answer any couples therapy questions you may have. Whether you’re committed to the idea of trying therapy or you or your partner are still hesitant, we can help you figure out how to know if you need therapy and tell you more about the couples therapy process.
This post was first featured on Connect With Life