When Should You Seek Couples Therapy?

If you’re asking yourself if it’s time to start couples therapy, the answer is probably yes. Many couples seek therapy as a last resort and by that time, irreparable damage may have been done. Think of emotional health the same way you think of physical health: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Focus on the foundation of your relationship, that way when you hit specific problems, you have the tools to navigate.  Here are a few indicators that it might be time to connect with a good therapist and strengthen some of your relationship skills.

1. Your conflict is rarely productive.

There’s no way around it. Couples fight. The question I continually ask my clients is “are your fights productive?” Meaning, after we fight I feel we’ve reached some resolution or awareness of how to change our behaviors. Likewise, it’s important to be aware of your fighting style. Is your partner a withdrawer? Do you need to have conflict resolved before you’re able to go on with your day? Is your partner a yeller? Does yelling trigger you to shut down? These are all factors that play into the success of your conflict and it’s important to have a mutual understanding of how to have productive fights. 

2. You’re starting to lose your friendship with each other.

Again, back that old adage about prevention versus cure. If you’re feeling distant from your spouse, speak up and face it head on. I like to challenge my clients to try and go on a date and refrain from talking about money, children, or work. Get back to the time you related on a friendship level.  Even just the practice of going to therapy creates a scheduled time slot where you and your partner are investing your relationship. Many couples get dinner or drinks after their session so they’re able to spend more time focusing on each other. 

3. Sex is rarely satisfying. 

Not always, but often sex is said to a barometer of how the relationship is going. I’m not necessarily even talking about frequency here. I wish had a dollar for every time a client has asked “how often should we be having sex?”. More important than frequency is satisfaction and connection within sex. If you're finding sex to be unsatisfying, it’s important to examine why. Mismatched libidos? Young children sleeping in the next bedroom over? History of sexual trauma in one or both partners? Demanding work schedules that prevent connection? Lack of understanding of foreplay needs? These are just drops in the bucket of why sex may be unsatisfying. It’s definitely worth finding a solid therapist who can help you and your partner explore the topic of sex. 

4. You’re going through major changes: job change, infertility, birth of a child, etc.

This is a big one. We get married and the future is full of possibility. However, even in the best scenario life throws us curveballs. You lose your job, your partner’s parent falls ill, you suffer a miscarriage or have a difficult time getting pregnant, adoptions fall through. Life adds up quickly and within a marriage lies two individuals who respond to hardship differently. It’s important that you stay attuned to these changes and continue to get to know your partner amidst life’s changes. Therapy is an intentional space to explore one another’s reactions to whatever it is you’re facing and better understand how to support your partner in the process. 

5. You feel your needs aren’t being met in the marriage. 

The bottom line is that if you’re feeling unsatisfied in your marriage, the ownness is on you to speak up. Give your partner a chance to respond to your needs. Learn to communicate in a way that isn’t accusatory but puts your partner in the best position to be non-defensive.  Within this framework, both partners are able to communicate about why needs aren’t being met and make intentional changes to work towards connection again.