Published on: 29 Aug 2023
Being able to recognize signs of unhealthy relationship patterns is key to knowing when to go to couples therapy. The earlier you address relationship problems, the easier it is to prevent them from escalating into more significant issues — not to mention you can avoid developing destructive behaviors that may ultimately lead to the demise of your relationship. There are many benefits of couples therapy, like helping you overcome challenges and deepen your connection with your partner. Studies show that around 70% of couples found therapy to be effective.
Curious if you and your partner should consider couples counseling? Keep reading to learn more about common relationship issues and the warning signs you need marriage counseling or couples therapy.
1. You’re Having Frequent and Intense Arguments
Frequent, increasing, or intense arguments can do obvious harm to a relationship. Knowing when to seek couples counseling means you can address the sources of conflict you and your partner regularly face. Certain couples therapy techniques can help you learn to navigate disagreements in healthier ways by:
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- Improving communication
- Identifying underlying problems
- Building trust
- Setting boundaries
- Developing effective conflict-resolution skills
2. There’s a Lack of Effective Communication
Effective communication is crucial for a healthy relationship. Poor communication patterns can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and emotional distance, all of which may be signs you need couples therapy. A good couples counselor will use a variety of communication exercises for couples to improve communication, enhance understanding, and increase empathy.
3. One or Both of You is Emotionally Withdrawing
Emotional withdrawal can create distance and disconnect that can seriously damage a relationship. Couples counseling helps you explore and address emotional barriers, rebuild intimacy, and strengthen your bond. Dealing with these relationship problems might prevent them from deteriorating any further.
Addressing emotional distance in therapy
- Identify the root causes: A skilled couples counselor will help you identify the reasons behind emotional withdrawal so you can better understand each other’s needs and perspectives.
- Foster open communication: Relationship therapy encourages honest conversations about feelings without fear of judgment or blame. This openness allows you to express yourselves more effectively while rebuilding trust and intimacy.
- Cultivate empathy: As you gain insight into each other’s experiences, you’ll develop greater empathy, increasing understanding and support.
“There are various reasons as to why a couple could seek therapy together. Commonly, some sort of conflict is occurring. One of the reasons why couples therapy might be helpful is when one or both people in the relationship ‘shuts down’ emotionally. It can be a consistent shutdown or during specific situations (i.e. disagreements). Some partners may have always struggled with communicating their emotions. Within couples therapy, any and all emotional shutdowns are explored and, as a team, find ways to work through those difficulties.”
4. There Are Trust Issues
Trust is a crucial factor in any relationship that, if broken, can bring about insecurity, doubt, and stress. Trust problems can stem from past personal experiences or current behaviors in a relationship.
Trust issues in a relationship can have serious adverse effects, including:
- Constant interrogation
- Lack of emotional closeness
- The potential for cheating
The longer trust issues go without being appropriately addressed, the more difficult it becomes to rebuild and maintain a strong connection with your partner.
5. There’s a Loss of Physical Intimacy
Sexual intimacy is an integral part of many romantic relationships. Problems with physical intimacy can cause frustration, loneliness, and tension, but couples therapy is a great place to address these issues in a safe and supportive environment. Therapists use many techniques to help couples regain a physical and intimate connection.
Exercises that foster physical connection
- Breathing exercises: Face each other with your foreheads lightly touching. Close your eyes and breathe deeply at the same time.
- The long cuddle: Make time to cuddle — 30 minutes is a great start — at night or in the mornings to bond and feel connected to your partner.
- The soul gaze: Sit facing one another and stare into each other’s eyes. While it may seem silly at first, think that you’re looking into the window of your partner’s soul.
- Active listening: For 3 – 5 minutes, one person shares whatever they want — things that are frustrating, things that have been hurtful, or anything else — while the other listens without saying anything. At the end of the time, the listener can respond.
- Sleep in the nude: Sleeping without clothes on has both physical and emotional benefits. Skin-on-skin contact can release the hormone oxytocin — also known as the love hormone. Research shows oxytocin plays a role in sexual behavior.
- 3 things: Each of you should come up with 3 things you want to ask the other. Questions can be about anything from what restaurants you want to eat at to things you want to do together in the next month.
- No phones in bed: Ditching the phones in the bedroom will encourage you to have deeper conversations with one another.
6. A Major Life Transition is Putting Stress on Your Relationship
Major life transitions — relocation, parenthood, or job loss — can cause tension in relationships. These shifts may result in stress that could, in turn, damage your relationship. Experiences that negatively affect your relationship after a life event could be a sign that you need marriage counseling.
Relationship therapy can be effective in helping you navigate life’s challenges together by providing tools for managing stress and improving communication.
7. You’re Growing Apart
Sometimes it can be hard to gauge when to get couples counseling because you’ve been growing apart so slowly that you might not even recognize it. Distance in a relationship can be indicative of something more serious, though. Couples therapy can be a productive space to discuss your needs openly and honestly as you explore ways to reconnect and find a middle ground.
In a couples counseling session, you’ll focus on remembering those shared values and interests you might have lost sight of at some point. Then, you and your partner can work to reignite that spark that initially brought you together.
8. One of You Considered or Had an Affair
Infidelity can devastate both people in a relationship, causing feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, resentment, and loss. Addressing the emotional toll and challenges is essential.
Couples therapy gives you the opportunity to openly discuss your thoughts and emotions related to the affair. A skilled therapist will help you explore underlying issues that may have contributed to the infidelity and facilitate honest, productive communication.
- Identify root causes: Understanding why an affair happened is crucial for rebuilding trust. Therapy can uncover unmet needs or unresolved conflicts that may have led one partner to seek comfort outside the relationship.
- Rebuild trust: Regaining trust after an affair takes time, effort, and commitment from both partners. A couples therapist will guide you through the process by enforcing transparency, accountability, empathy, and understanding.
- Strengthen communication skills: Open dialogue about your feelings about the affair can foster healing. Couples therapy teaches effective communication techniques so everyone feels heard without fear of judgment or blame.
While it can be difficult, it’s possible that you can both overcome infidelity with the help of couples therapy.
9. There Are Unresolved Past Issues
You can’t underestimate the impact of unresolved past issues on a relationship’s ability to move forward. Couples therapy is a structured and supportive environment to address and heal wounds. This process encourages you to understand each other’s perspectives while working towards a resolution.
“Sometimes, personal or combined past issues hinder the positive movement of a relationship. We often call it ‘baggage’ when it’s an individual issue that prohibits the growth of a relationship. However, it could also mean that sometime during the life of the relationship, some unresolved negative situation/emotion occurred that makes it difficult to move forward. Working with a professional in either scenario can help as a couple helps one another foster the desired growth and confidence within the relationship.”
10. You’re Having Financial Conflicts
Research shows that financial conflicts are among the most common relationship challenges, affecting trust, communication, and overall satisfaction. In fact, it’s one of the most common couples therapy topics discussed with professionals. Therapy can help you navigate money problems by improving financial communication skills and teamwork.
A therapist can facilitate open discussions about values, beliefs, and expectations surrounding finances so you each can understand where the other is coming from.
Addressing financial issues in a relationship
- Identify emotional issues: Therapy helps uncover any deep-rooted emotional concerns related to finances.
- Create a shared vision: A therapist can guide you in creating financial goals based on mutual understanding and respect for each other.
- Promote teamwork: By working together as a team to manage finances, couples can strengthen their bond and minimize money stress.
- Foster healthy communication patterns: You can work with a therapist to learn how to discuss money openly without it becoming an argument every time.
11. You’re Facing Parenting Challenges
The unique challenges of parenting often lead to conflict in a relationship. By seeking couples therapy, you can improve dynamics, resolve disputes, and create a unified approach to parenting.
Benefits of couples counseling for parenting challenges
- Improve communication skills: Therapy helps you learn to express thoughts and feelings openly without fear of judgment or criticism.
- Foster empathy: Understanding each other is essential in resolving conflicts related to parenting.
- Develop effective problem-solving strategies: Therapy teaches you how to approach problems collaboratively rather than defensively or combatively.
- Promote consistency in co-parenting: Consistency is vital when raising children. Working together as a team will keep you on the same page regarding expectations and boundaries.
12. One or Both of You Want a Separation or Divorce
If separation or divorce is on the table, therapy can be a valuable place to determine if there’s any potential for saving your marriage or relationship. Whatever happens, a therapist can offer guidance and support to ensure a healthier transition if you decide to part ways. Couples therapy can help you find acceptance in whatever the future holds.
Explore the reasons behind the decision
You’ll have the chance to delve into the reasons for separation or divorce. This process will help you gain insight into each other’s feelings. A professional therapist can guide you through productive conversations as you come to a resolution.
Find solutions together
Couples therapy is about more than just identifying issues. Your therapist will work with you and your partner to develop strategies for addressing concerns, improving communication, and rebuilding trust together.
Navigate separation or divorce process healthily
If, after exploring the relationship, you decide that divorce is the best option, having professional guidance can ensure healthier transitions for everyone. The emotional turmoil associated with ending a long-term partnership can be overwhelming, but working with a skilled therapist can help you navigate this difficult time.
13. You Want a Healthier Relationship
Couples therapy isn’t just for people experiencing significant issues in their relationship. It can also be great for people who want to maintain or strengthen their connection or work towards relationship goals. By seeking professional guidance from therapists — like those available through Talkspace — you can build upon your foundation and create an even stronger bond with your partner.
“There’s this mentality that couples therapy is a last-ditch effort to save a relationship. This isn’t always the case. Some couples seek therapy together to ‘check in’ with one another but also discuss anything that may be of concern in a safe and neutral environment. Some clients choose to do so before going into a long-term committed relationship like marriage or civil unions.”
Strengthen Your Relationship with Talkspace
If you’ve felt that you’re growing apart, but you want to make things work, consider seeking professional support with Talkspace. Online therapy can offer insights into strengthening your bond as you navigate any challenges along the way.
- Lebow JL, Chambers AL, Christensen A, Johnson SM. Research on the treatment of couple distress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 2011;38(1):145-168. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00249.x. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22283385/. Accessed May 27, 2023
- Vittner D, McGrath J, Robinson J, et al. Increase in oxytocin from skin-to-skin contact enhances development of parent–infant relationship. Biological Research For Nursing. 2017;20(1):54-62. doi:10.1177/1099800417735633. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29017336/. Accessed May 27, 2023.
- Magon N, Kalra S. The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, Lust, and Labor. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011;15(7):156. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.84851. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183515/. Accessed May 27, 2023
- Happy couples: How to avoid money arguments. American Psychological Association. Accessed May 27, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/money/conflict.
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