It’s no secret that ongoing relationship distress can be extremely damaging to each partner’s wellbeing (and the wellbeing of children, if you have them). Relationships that are lacking in trust, communication, affection, and connection can take a serious emotional toll on those involved. While we know that it’s important to maintain a healthy partnership, why are so many couples going through relationship issues hesitant to start couples counseling?
The Gottman Institute gives us insight into this dilemma:
- Only 31% of couples take a premarital relationship education program.
- Only 19% of couples actually seek out some form of couples therapy. And only 37% of divorced couples worked with a professional prior to signing the papers.
- The average couple waits six years before seeking professional help for marital problems.
Part of the reason so few couples seek out couples counseling is that there’s still a slight stigma attached to it. People may view couples counseling as a sign that their relationship is weak or believe that they shouldn’t need it. However, there are many ways in which seeing a therapist can help improve a relationship. Here are a few signs that you might consider starting couples counseling:
1- You Aren’t Communicating Well
Communication is key in every healthy relationship. If we aren’t able to effectively communicate with our partners, then we will never be able to truly support one another. When communicating with your partner, you may find that you’re automatically defaulting to what John Gottman calls “the four horsemen“: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling. If your relationship contains one or more of these unhelpful communication patterns, you and your partner might consider talking to a therapist who can provide more helpful communication techniques.
2- Your Arguments Aren’t Constructive
This sign goes along with poor communication. If your arguments are more destructive than constructive, it may be a sign to seek couples counseling. You might find that you and your partner keep having the same argument over and over, without truly resolving it. Or you may find that one or both of you comes away from arguments feeling deeply hurt or misunderstood. While conflict is normal in any relationship, it’s important for couples to know how to argue effectively so that they can move forward in their partnership.
3- You’re Struggling to Trust Each Other
Trust can be broken for many different reasons. Perhaps one partner in the relationship has been unfaithful. Or maybe you both struggle being truthful with one another. When trust is damaged, it can be difficult to feel truly loved and fulfilled in a relationship. A couples therapist can help partners better understand why there is a lack of trust and how to effectively build back that trust again.
4- You Feel Like You’ve Lost That “Spark”
If you feel like you and your partner are more like roommates than “soul mates,” it may be a sign you’ve lost your “spark.” While the honeymoon phase of a relationship doesn’t last forever, it’s still important to feel connected with your partner. If there is a lack of emotional and physical intimacy in your partnership, talking to a therapist can help.
5- You’ve Gone Through Something Difficult Together
Sometimes major life setbacks or struggles can significantly alter the dynamic of a relationship. Whether it’s financial issues, a health crisis, or issues within a partner’s family, big life changes can threaten to destabilize a couple’s bond. Couples counseling can help a couple cope through the more difficult times in life.