Do you need couples therapy?
How do you know when your relationship is in trouble and if it’s time to seek professional help? The sooner you take action to repair and rebuild your relationship, the greater your chances of success.
The most important question to ask is this - how is your communication? Whatever specific issue you may be facing, if you and your partner struggle to communicate and get stuck in negative, hurtful patterns, then it’s time to introspect and seek help.
Here are 6 signs you might need couples therapy.
1. There’s too much conflict, and you’re unable to resolve or move past it.
While not all conflict is bad, conflicts with the following features corrode the love and friendship in relationships:
Are your fights cyclical and repetitive i.e. whatever the subject of the actual fight, it keeps going back to old issues?
Do one or both of you become critical, defensive or passive aggressive?
Have you started to think of your partner as uncaring, hurting you on purpose and unable to change?
Do you feel misunderstood and ignored most of the time and do you leave your fights to subside without resolution?
2. Sex is a problem, and you’re unable to talk about it.
Stress, life changes (e.g., parenthood, ageing, medical problems), and increasing domesticity all affect the level of sexual desire and frequency and quality of sex. While it’s normal if sex fluctuates over time or there are differences in how much each partner wants, it can weigh a relationship significantly if you’re unable to talk about it.
Is physical intimacy absent or does something about your current sex life bother you?
Are you not able to talk about sex without fighting or shutting down?
3. Emotional intimacy is missing
A sense of togetherness (“we are a team”) and connectedness (“I feel known by you”) binds couples together, and is critically important in intimate relationships.
Have you not felt connected in a long time?
Are you unable to talk about your loneliness?
Have your efforts to increase connection been unsuccessful?
4. Trust is broken
Whether through affairs or other types of deception, once trust is broken, it can leak into every aspect of the relationship and send you spiraling as a couple. A professional can guide you both through a healing process where:
The partner who had an affair or broke trust can take responsibility for their actions
The partner who was lied to or cheated on can be helped to process the betrayal
You can re-establish the foundations of your relationship, and start healing instead of self-destructing
Seeking a couples therapist immediately is often the best course of action when a betrayal is discovered.
5. A big life event is straining your relationship
You have a baby, your partner receives a medical diagnosis, or one of you loses your job or business - such life changes/transitions can stress a relationship. The consequences of such stress can snowball into chronic problems if left unaddressed.
Do one or both of you feel overwhelmed as the stress increases, and are unable to support each other through this period?
Do you feel more isolated and find it harder to communicate with each other?
6. You’re unable to enjoy leisure time together
Sometimes the absence of fights doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues to address. How couples play together is just as important as how they fight. In fact, research suggests that leisure time helps with bonding and protects from the negative effects of conflict.
Are you not able spend time together in a relaxed way (e.g., meals, travel, hobbies) due to some underlying tension or built up negativity?
Are you unable to be playful or share light moments with each other?
A couples therapist can help you understand your own and each other’s needs, and to learn to communicate your feelings and needs effectively without hurting the relationship further, especially during stressful periods of your life and relationship.
Even if you’re not struggling with debilitating issues in your relationship, couples therapy can be immensely helpful in building greater intimacy, communication skills and your ability to resolve conflicts, key markers of a healthy relationship in the long term.
This section on couples therapy has been written by Prerana Dharnidhanka, a couples therapist based in Mumbai. She can be reached at +91 90820 59703.