7 Signs To Seek Out Couples Therapy, According To Couples Therapists
People go to individual therapy for a myriad of reasons: Depression, anxiety, stress, issues at work, grief, health problems — the list goes on (and each is equally valid). Just like you encounter roadblocks you must overcome when it comes to your own life and well-being, relationships aren't free of rough patches. Knowing when to seek out couples therapy could be a game changer when it comes to keeping your relationship healthy and happy.
Though the work done in couples therapy differs from relationship to relationship, many aspects or techniques used are similar. Anthony Chambers, Ph.D., the chief academic officer of The Family Institute, and the director of the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies at Northwestern University, tells Bustle, "A good couples therapy session will help couples to increase their connection, will help the couple learn about scientifically informed principles and skills for what constitutes a healthy relationship, and will help each member of the couple better communicate and manage their emotions."
According to the Gottman Institute, couples on average wait out six years of "being unhappy" before seeking out a couples counseling, and professional help. But couples therapy can provide you and your partner with a safe space to talk out any major or minor issues that have come up in your relationship. These are seven signs that you and your partner could benefit from seeing a couples therapist.
1. You Or Your Partner Are Simply Feeling Unhappy In The Relationship
"There is no prescriptive reason to try couples therapy," Kate Deibler, LMSW, a psychotherapist and member of the Alma community co-practice in New York City, says. "If one partner is unhappy or dissatisfied, the complaint should be addressed head on." Seeking out a couples therapist could help you and your partner pinpoint the reasons behind the unhappiness or discontentment in your relationship.
2. You're Fighting All The Time (Or Not At All)
Fighting or bickering on occasion with your partner is actually a sign of a healthy relationship — unless you're fighting too much, or too little. "If there are lots of topics that you avoid discussing because it feels like you are going around in circles, or if every time you begin to discuss a meaningful topic it turns into a huge argument, then that is definitely a sign that you should seek couple therapy," says Chambers. Remember, healthy communication is key in any romantic or platonic relationship.
3. There's Been A Major Change In Your Life Or Relationship
Deibler says, "Couples often seek [therapy] out when a major change has occurred, or they are anticipating one." Large life events — everything from losing a loved one, moving, starting a new career, health issues, or an affair — are a major cause of stress in relationships.
"These changes have the potential to cause many issues that couples often bring into therapy, including no or not enough sex, or unsatisfying communication," Deibler explains. "Neither of these are a problem, unless one or both members in the partnership name them as such."
4. You Feel Resentful
Feeling unheard, always angry, or acting out in passive aggressive ways in your relationship? It could be a sign you're dealing with feelings of resentment towards your partner. "If one or both of you are starting to feel resentful, then seek [professional] help right away. Resentment is most toxic emotions in terms of relationships," says Chambers.
5. You Feel Like You're Dating A Stranger
"If the relationship has deteriorated over time to the point that you feel like you don’t know your partner anymore, then definitely seek couple therapy," says Chambers, adding that the distance between you both could be unintentional, or intentional. Sure, being friends with your partner is most always a part of building a longlasting romantic relationship. But, if you feel like your relationship as shifted from more romantic to platonic, a couples therapist could help you work through the lack of closeness. They may even recommend healthy ways for you and your partner to spend time together.
6. You've Been Considering Couples Therapy For A While
You don't have to be struggling with a mental illness in order to seek out individual therapy, and you don't need to have major relationship issues to try couples therapy. "Couples decide to come to therapy for many different reasons, and there is no reason not to try it if one or both members of the relationship are interested in it, or believe it could be helpful," says Deibler. "The best time to address anything in a relationship is before an attachment (or emotional) injury occurs."
7. There's An Absence Of Intimacy
It's totally normal to experience lulls in intimacy — whether that's emotional intimacy, physical intimacy, or spiritual intimacy — during a long-term relationship. However, Chambers explains it could be a signal that you and your partner would benefit from seeing a couples therapist, especially "if you feel that there is a lack of intimacy in at least two aspects." Going to couples therapy could help you learn how to rekindle the flame, and keep it from going out in the future.
Much like regular therapy, there's no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about pursuing couples therapy. Through it, you can learn how to better communicate, identify ways to build trust, and develop healthier interpersonal skills. In fact, couples therapy is not only a worthy investment for your relationship, but for yourself and your own health.