3 Signs It’s Time to Start Couples Therapy

Relationships are hard. There is no way around it. Even the best couples struggle with a wide range of issues from time to time. Often, it just takes some slowing down, paying attention, really listening and compromise to smooth things over. But sometimes even our best efforts fail to get things back on track. This is when couples therapy can make a big difference. But how do we know it’s time to reach out?

As a couples therapist in Pasadena, CA, I’ve identified three key signs that it’s time to start couples therapy. Of course there are more than three, but these are the top things that couples come to see me for.

We Just Keep Fighting!

When you think about it, human communication is one of the most complicated things in the universe. Just simply finding words to describe our internal experience requires immense sophistication, development and brain power. Add another human to the mix and, well, things get exponentially harder. One sign it might be time to come in for couples counseling is that you find yourself fighting with your partner more and more. Now, arguing, disagreeing, and even fighting, can be signs of a healthy relationship. You know those couples who never fight? I’ll tell you a secret. They’re actually not doing that great. Never getting heated is not a sign of success. It’s often a sign of disconnection and lack of intimacy.

Are any of these things happening in your relationship:

  • We’re fighting more and more
  • Our fights are getting more intense
  • We rarely, if ever, agree, or repair after a fight

If even just one applies, it’s probably a good idea to reach out for some support.

We Never Talk Anymore

Intimacy naturally ebbs and flows in any relationship. It’s normal to be joined at the hip one week, only to find yourself preferring to be alone the next. This is not a sign of something bad happening, it’s just normal. But if you notice that things are getting more and more distant over time, you might have a problem that is well suited for couples therapy.

Signs that the distance between you could be problem:

  • You rarely, if ever, have sex.
  • You would rather spend time with your friends.
  • You can’t remember the last time you touched your partner.
  • You haven’t shared a meal in a long time.

So what does it mean when these things happen? Fear not, very rarely is this a sign of anything significant. We naturally stop paying attention to things to which we are most accustomed. We make assumptions and take things forgranted. This does not mean we don’t love somebody, or are no longer attracted to them. It’s just human nature. The good news is there are some very simple yet pwoerful skills you can learn to turn things around. That’s why couples therapy can be so helpful when we’ve lost the spark in our relationship.

Someone Said the “D” Word!

When we’re out of options, when we don’t know what to do, it’s very common to make threats, to say shocking things in order to get our message across. And one way we do this is to threaten the relationship itself.

Have you ever said any of the following:

  • I don’t think I can do this anymore!
  • You’re not the person I married!
  • Well, maybe we shouldn’t be together!

I hear these comments over and over in the couples I work with. And while they are a sign that something needs to change, rarely do they actually result in divorce or the end of a relationship. More often, these comments are meant to demonstrate the level of pain and upset we’re feeling. We want our partner to understand how bad things are. And we want things to change! We just don’t know how else to make the point.

Unfortunately, these comments are toxic. They can really do damage and rarely result in us getting what we want. They add fuel to the fire and drive away the person we care about the most. When I see this happening, it’s a sign that one or both parties needs some help finding new and more effective ways to communicate. In couples therapy, you learn and practice communication skills, how to avoid these painful moments, and how to build intimacy and empathy for ourselves and our partners.

Let Me Know if I Can Help

There are all sorts of reasons couples come to see me. These three are just the most common and the tip of the iceberg. Of course, if you are dealing with infidelity, substance abuse, or domestic violence, don’t hesitate to reach out right now.

Additionally, if you or your partner suffer with depression, anxiety, or trauma, don’t hesitate to reach out right away.

The human relationship is highly complex, and it requires regular maintenance. Just like a car, if you don’t tune it up, eventually something will break down. You can avoid a lot suffering if you spend some time now tuning things up. And I’d be honored to help you out.

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Dr. Chris Tickner, MFT

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