Is It Time to Try Couples Therapy?
There is an idea in society that couples therapy is only needed when a couple is on the brink of splitting up. Many view it as a last-ditch effort before ending the relationship. This belief leads couples to wait until they have lost hope in the relationship's success before seeking help.
However, the truth is that you don't need to wait until you hit your breaking point before you seek help for your relationship. Couples counseling can help couples learn helpful strategies to protect and nurture their relationship so it can grow even stronger throughout the years.
Here are 10 signs that it may be time to give couples therapy a try:
1. You keep having the same argument over and over again
You're a spender. He's a saver. The two of you constantly argue over finances. You feel like you do all the work to upkeep the house, and your partner doesn't help. She works long hours, and you feel like you always get her second-best. She spoils the kids, and you disagree.
There are a lot of common arguments that can reoccur in relationships. If you find that you and your partner are having the same arguments on repeat and never making any progress, couples therapy can help.
A therapist can help you and your partner work on addressing the heart of your repeat argument. It can help to have a third party present as you work on addressing the specific problem and look for potential solutions. You can also learn strategies you can use going forward to help the two of you have more productive conversations, even when you disagree.
2. One or both of you have been unfaithful
Unfaithfulness in a relationship doesn't mean the relationship needs to end; however, it's a sign that there is work to be done within the relationship. The hurt and damage caused by infidelity can feel insurmountable if you try to manage it on your own.
Infidelity can lead to the following struggles in one or both individuals:
Lost confidence and low self-esteem
Feelings of helplessness
You and your partner may also struggle with knowing if you want to work on healing the relationship or separating. Couples therapy can help you identify why the affair happened, what you want the future to look like, and steps to help you get there.
3. You don't agree on parenting styles or decisions
Adding children to the mix can add a layer of complication to relationships. It's natural for partners to experience conflict as they work to determine how to raise children together. You and your partner each have your own idea, traditions, beliefs, and experiences that have shaped you and how you want to parent your kids. When your views don't align with your partners, it can cause arguments.
It's important to learn how to make decisions together and have a united front in parenting. A therapist can help provide the space you and your partner need to have productive conversations around these challenges and disagreements.
4. There is a difficult life transition occurring
Life is full of transitions, and they each come with their own struggles. These transitions can include things like:
Moving to a new area,
Starting a new job,
Having a child
Becoming empty nesters
Caring for elderly parents.
It's common for couples to struggle as they work to navigate these transitions and adjust to a new way of life. Sometimes it helps to have a relationship therapist who can help the two of your sort through this new transition. They can also help you predict what struggles may arise during the predictable stages a family unit experiences.
5. In-laws are causing stress
When you get married, you don't just marry your spouse; you also marry into a whole new family. This transition isn't always smooth, and it's common for people to have differences of opinion with their in-laws. You and your spouse need to learn how to navigate as a new family unit while learning and establishing where your sets of parents belong within your family. This can involve learning to set boundaries and address unrealistic expectations. It can also be common for couples to struggle to agree on what these new relationships should look like and where the boundaries should be placed.
In addition, the relationship you have with your parents and in-laws transitions throughout life. For example, when you have children and your parents become grandparents, it may be difficult for you and your partner to agree on what role the grandparents will play. Or, when your parents and in-laws are growing older and need more assistance or caregiving, you and your partner need to navigate together what your roles will look like.
Having a therapist present to help facilitate these types of conversations and teach you strategies to have healthy extended family relationships can be helpful.
6. Need to build trust or rebuild trust
If trust has been lost within your relationship, it can be challenging to learn how to move forward together. You may be afraid to be vulnerable with your partner for fear of being hurt by them again. It can be difficult to navigate alone, but the good news is that learning to rebuild trust with one another is possible.
Couples counseling can help you sort through why trust was lost and what steps you and your significant other can take as you work on establishing trust again and repairing the relationship.
7. Communication is a struggle in your relationship
Communication is one of the keys to healthy relationships, but that doesn't mean it's easy or comes naturally. Common communication struggles couples face include:
Ignoring issues instead of talking about them
Thinking the other person should just know what is needed or wanted without communicating it to them
Focusing on trying to be right
Not listening to the other person
Getting defensive or being easily offended
Giving the silent treatment
If you and your partner struggle to communicate in healthy, productive ways, couples therapy can help.
8. You've grown apart or don't feel you're in love anymore
You may think that things will get easier once you are in a long-term relationship or married. You can settle in and not put so much effort into the relationship. However, relationships must continue to be nurtured to remain healthy. If you neglect your relationship and your partner, you may find that you start to "grow apart."
When life gets busy, it's easy to stop focusing on your relationship as you did initially. As you start to feel like you're drifting apart, it becomes easier to think that the love is gone. It also becomes easier to grow closer to someone else.
When in a long-term relationship, it's helpful to remember that love is a choice, and you need to continue choosing your partner each new day. Couples therapy can help you identify ways to continue or return to prioritizing your relationship.
9. You or your partner struggle with addiction
Addiction doesn't only impact the person struggling with addiction; it also affects those around them, including their partner. In addition, addiction can lead to other behaviors that are harmful to a relationship, including broken trust, manipulation, and abuse. Couples therapy can create a safe space to work through your relationship's challenges, including those caused by addiction.
Your therapist can also work with you and your partner one-on-one to address the individual struggles you each face that contribute to the struggles within the marriage.
10. You want to save your relationship
Maybe you don't know why your relationship is struggling, but you know it doesn't look like what you hoped it would. You love your partner and want the relationship to work, but you aren't sure what to do any longer. Maybe you've tried everything you know and aren't sure what else to try. A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) can help you discover a path forward.
Working with a marriage therapist for pre-marital counseling can also help you learn important strategies for building a healthy marriage. Learning about the common challenges that can occur and how to communicate effectively before there is a problem can help you avoid them in the future.
How does couple therapy work
Couples therapy provides you and your partner an unbiased third party to help you set and progress your relationship goals. Of course, this looks differently based on your unique situation and what brought you to couples therapy in the first place. Still, your therapist is not going to "take sides." You can work with a Marriage and Family Therapist as a couple or on your own if your partner is unwilling to attend therapy sessions.
During sessions, your therapist will work to discover where your relationship troubles stem from and what actions you can take to correct them. In addition, a therapist can help you see new strategies you can use to transform your communication within the relationship and address common challenges you're facing.
Some of the things you may discuss during your first couples counseling session include:
The history of your relationship
What main problem you're experiencing
What goals you have for the relationship (it's OK if you don't know when you begin therapy)
Your therapist will customize therapy sessions to help you and your partner work toward reaching your therapy goals.
How to find a couples therapist
If you are attending therapy sessions together, finding a couples therapist with which you and your significant other are comfortable is crucial. Therapy requires you to share personal information about yourself, and it's important that you both feel you can be open and honest with your therapist.
Here are a few tips on finding a couples therapist:
Look for a therapist who specializes in working with couples. Not all therapists are experienced or interested in working with couples. Look for someone like a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or a psychologist or social worker who has experience working with couples and understands best practices.
Find a therapist with experience in the area you're looking for help. Take a moment to clarify what you're looking for help with in your relationship to the best of your ability. This can help you find a therapist with experience in that area. For example, some therapists specialize in working with addiction. If this is part of the challenges in your relationship, it can help to work with someone who has experience in this area.
Interview therapists. You don't need to work with the first name that shows up in your online search. Working with a therapist you and your partner are comfortable with and confident in is important. Talk to them before setting an appointment to ask more about them, their experience working with couples, what payment forms they accept, and more about their treatment techniques.
Consider the location. You want to choose a therapist who will be easy for you and your partner to work with. This may mean looking for a therapy clinic that is in a good location for both of you or finding a couples therapist with online therapy options.
If you're tired of trying to solve your relationship struggles on your own and are looking for support, The NEST Clinic offers Couples Counseling and Family Counseling, and we have several Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists on staff. Contact us today to get connected with the right therapist for you.