Deciding when to start couples therapy can be overwhelming as there is no concrete answer to when your relationship could benefit from outside support. Instead of waiting for a magic number of fights had with your partner, years spent together, or tears shed before seeking help, consider some of these indicators that you might need couples therapy.
1. Ineffective Fighting
Disagreements are a natural part of any relationship between two people. However, if you find yourself having the same fight over and over again, feeling put-down by your partner, or find yourself communicating passive-aggressively, you might be fighting ineffectively. This can often happen when couples have different communication styles, and a common pattern is one partner who withdraws when faced with conflict while the other pursues. Couples therapy can help to both understand one another’s communication style and improve the quality of communication so that disagreements can be resolved more easily.
2. Lack of Communication
Maybe you feel misunderstood or ignored by your loved one. Maybe you feel that difficult issues (e.g. finances) are too challenging to discuss with your partner. Maybe you used to feel close, but lately feel more disconnected from one another. Lack of communication can drive emotional disconnection just as much as ineffective communication, and couples therapy can provide a supportive environment to safely increase communication and emotional intimacy with your partner.
3. Unfulfilling Physical Intimacy
Physical intimacy is just one part of building a satisfying relationship, but it can feel like the most important one when it is unfulfilling. Stress in a relationship can impact both emotional and physical intimacy, and a couples therapist can assist partners in both communicating their needs with one another and rebuilding a satisfying physical relationship.
4. Break in Trust
Trust is an important aspect of every relationship, and can become impaired for a multitude of reasons most commonly stemming from secret keeping. Couples therapy can help to explore how trust broke down in the first place, and create a safe environment in which to rebuild trust.
5. Relationship Milestones
Transitioning to a new stage in life (moving in together, getting engaged, marriage, starting a family, etc.) can be both exciting and stressful on your relationship. These milestones are opportunities for growth, but also a time when issues can start to arise. A therapist can help to assist you and your partner make a smooth transition, and readjust to a new phase in your relationship in a healthy way.
These are all great indicators that your relationship could benefit from couples therapy, but are by no means the only signs. Don’t wait until it feels like your relationship has gotten out of hand, but instead seek couples therapy to prevent it from getting there in the first place. The only thing you absolutely need to start couples therapy is a mutual desire to improve your relationship.