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How to Know When You Need Couples' Therapy

One of the reasons couples therapy is ineffective is because couples spend prolonged time (sometimes more than 10 years) trying to resolve deep issues on their own before seeking professional help. They avoid therapy for several reasons, including:

  • the stigma attached to seeing a mental health professional

  • pride

  • denial, or

  • the cost

Whatever the reason, when one or both partners give up, divorce becomes inevitable. Divorce may the end of the marriage, but the couple still must work together to co-parent and grieve the incredible loss of family and home life. It doesn’t have to be this way. Half of all divorces wouldn’t happen if the couple had actively engaged in relationship therapy. If you’re going into the New Year feeling as though your relationship needs help but you are not sure what’s normal behavior or if it’s “just you,” consider the following.

6 Behaviors to Watch for in Your Relationship:

Taken alone each of these behaviors are seen in healthy relationships, but when the majority of these behaviors occur consistently, it’s time to seek professional help.

  1. You get a feeling of dread when you go home or are going to be alone with your partner. Your brain can deny the truth, but you’re “gut” cannot. Living in an unhealthy relationship begins causing other symptoms as well. Headaches, stomach problems, and cardio vascular problems are common with relationship distress.

  2. You fight about the same issues over and over again. Some issues are hot topics and couples are counseled to agree to disagree and not discuss them. Everyone has “agree to disagree” issues, and that’s okay. However, if you continually fight about issues that you cannot work together to resolve, this can lead to deeper communication problems.

  3. When one parent emotionally attaches to their children, avoiding their partner. To feel like you’re the odd person out when you’re out with your family is a lonely feeling. This is a common reason people give for cheating on their partner (not a wise or thought-out excuse). Children are healthier when they have both parent’s involvement.

  4. One or both partners have relationship apathy. Most relationship counselors would much rather have a couple who were angry at each other than indifferent. If you or your partner no longer has enthusiasm or motivation to work on and nurture your relationship that is a red flag. Indifference and apathy kill more marriages than anger.

  5. Talking down or bad about your partner in front of them or with others. Your partner is on your team and if you begin criticizing them, your relationship needs help. The partner who is criticized will often withdraw from intimacy. Resentment kills libido.

  6. You’ve convinced yourself that your partner is the “weak link” or to blame for your relationship problems. When one partner claims all marital problems are because of their spouse, it’s time to get help. Healthy marriages focus on resolving issues, not blaming each other. Your partner is an integral part of your team; partners protect each other.

Engaging in marriage and relationship counseling does not mean your marriage is over or that you’ve failed. It means you’ve seen the light and you want to recreate a relationship you love being part of. Don’t put off prioritizing your marriage. –Mary Jo Rapini

Disclaimer: The exception to the above is if you’re in an abusive marriage. You cannot invest enough effort or nurturing if you’re married to an abuser. They need professional mental health care and you need to get out and be safe.


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