How To Know When You Should Go To Couples Therapy

by Teresa Newsome

In early 2015, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard opened up to the media about the key to their happy marriage: couples therapy. Their advice? You shouldn't wait until there are signs you need couple's therapy. You should start from the beginning.

"You do better in the gym with a trainer; you don’t figure out how to cook without reading a recipe. Therapy is not something to be embarrassed about," Bell said, according to US Weekly.

You don't have to have the insight at the very beginning of your relationship to benefit from couple's therapy. There's never a bad time to learn better ways to communicate and deal with conflict.

As a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I've counseled couples who have run the gamut from mostly happy to inches from fleeing to different countries. Many of the problems they thought were insurmountable really weren't. They just didn't have the tools they needed to tackle their problems or the courage to be truly honest.

Here are some of the most common reasons couples sought out counseling, in case you're on the fence. And if you are on the fence, there's no rule that says you have to keep going back.

1. Your Or Your Partner Is Pregnant

There's arguably nothing that will change your relationship more than having children. You need to share love and attention, live with no sleep, quadruple your responsibilities, and keep another living being alive. The fatigue alone is enough to make you less-than-pleasant, to say the least. Plus, you have to deal with changing bodies, a new budget... the list goes on. Having someone else to talk it out with can make your transition much smoother.

2. There's A Lack Of Sex

If you're having a lack of sex that's more than the common occasional dry spell, you could be feeling disconnected from your partner. Talking to a therapist can help you reconnect, or explore other contributing problems, like lack of self-esteem, poor time-management, or boredom. And if your low sex drive is medical, your therapist can help point you to the medical resources you need.

3. For That One Lingering Problem

All couples have problems and disagreements, and sometimes they have to agree to disagree. Some problems, however, aren't as simple as being willing to look the other way. If one of you wants children and the other doesn't, for example, you may need help navigating that issue. If you can't agree on anything, your therapist can teach you how to compromise and make sure you're making decisions fairly.

4. When Dealing With Infidelity

Some couples come back from cheating and end up closer than ever. Some can never get past it. When infidelity strikes your union, you will probably need help learning to forgive the betrayal. Then you'll have to work to rebuild trust. All of that takes a ton of communication and love, and the ability to be sad and angry in a healthy and constructive way. It's complicated stuff and there's no shame in needing guide.

5. Before A Breakup

Most couples think of therapy as the last straw to grasp at before the big breakup. Couples therapy is not a magic wand for a broken relationship, but it can help you understand what's not working, which is essential if you want to save your love. And if you discover in therapy that you truly shouldn't stay together, you'll have a built-in safety net for ending things amicably and talking out your feelings.

6. When You And/Or Your Partner Is Dealing With Mental Illness

If you're already in therapy because you suffer from depression, anxiety, or other common brain disorders, you might want to bring your partner into the fold. Your therapist can help your partner understand your triggers and symptoms, which I can say from experience is both eye-opening and life-saving. Not everyone in therapy has a mental illness, but for those who do, having an experienced professional to guide your partner through the ups and downs is a big plus.

7. When You're Furiously Happy

You can take a page from Bell and Shepard's book and go to therapy as a way to keep everything running smoothly instead of a way to fix what's already broken. It's kind of hard to get lost in the day to day and forget to process your feelings with your partner if you have a standing appointment to do so. Plus, the trust it takes to be so honest and so willing to make your relationship great is totally sexy.

And sometimes it's just nice to have a witness to the ridiculous shenanigans involved in making a life together. And a professional can give you a better opinion than your Facebook friends can.

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