Couples therapy can help you strengthen an already flourishing relationship or mend a challenging one.
Although therapy for couples is not an overnight fix for all relationship problems, it does help many couples overcome their struggles and deepen their connection.
This article will help you understand exactly what couples therapy is and whether you and your partner could benefit from it.
What is couples therapy?
Couples therapy is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy) designed specifically to help two people in a relationship with one another. Couples psychotherapy teaches people how to repair issues in their relationship and build a strong connection based on empathy and trust.
Couples therapy helps people address issues such as:
- Lack of communication in a relationship
- Frequent arguing or bickering
- Differences of opinion (about topics such as parenting or money)
- Emotional distance (including withdrawal of affection)
- Illness (including sudden diagnoses and chronic illnesses)
- Affairs and infidelity
- Loss and bereavement
- Intimacy issues (including differences in libido, lack of trust or loss of interest in sex)
- Big life changes (such as retirement or moving overseas)
- Extended family issues (including differing opinions about boundaries with relatives and in-laws)
Does couples therapy work?
Couples psychotherapy can be highly effective when done correctly. However, it does require both partners to be invested.
Couples therapy only works when both partners are willing to fully embrace the process and be open and honest during sessions.
The right relationship counsellor will help you support you through this process. They will guide you through sitting with uncomfortable emotions and having difficult conversations.
As a result, couples therapy will help you and your partner change the way you see your relationship, adopt healthier behaviours, become more comfortable expressing your feelings and learn more effective communication techniques.
Your therapist will also point out the strengths in your relationship to help you both appreciate what’s working well too.
10 signs you may need couples therapy
Couples therapy can be beneficial to almost all couples in all stages of a relationship. However, there are some scenarios that make couples therapy particularly important and helpful.
If you are experiencing one or more of the following scenarios, couples therapy is definitely worth considering:
1) You are afraid to share your true thoughts or feelings with your partner
If sharing your feelings resulted in an argument getting blown out of proportion in the past, it can feel intimidating to bring up the same topic again in future.
However, avoiding having certain conversations, out of fear of conflict, can lead to a breakdown in communication, leaving you and your partner feeling disconnected. Even avoiding talking about small things you find annoying could ultimately lead to a larger-scale communication problem.
If you or your partner are fearful of talking about certain topics, working with a couples therapist can be a great way to help you approach difficult conversations. A relationship therapist will make sure you both feel safe in your sessions and they’ll be there to help you navigate tricky conversations and clear up any misunderstandings.
2) You resent one another
Feelings of resentment indicate that there are underlying issues in a relationship that need to be addressed.
Resentment often occurs when a person is unable to let go of the pain of past arguments or hurtful memories. The problem with resentment is that it is not like other emotions that come and go – it stays permanently under the surface, tainting every conversation until it is healed.
Your tone with your partner will be laced with resentment, even in light-hearted conversations, which can lead to further guilt, shame and insecurities in your relationship.
Working with a couples therapist will help you identify and release any underlying resentment so that you and your partner can break free from the negativity that has been dragging your connection down.
3) You remove love and affection from your relationship, especially during periods of conflict
Sometimes people restrict love and affection as a way to “punish” their partner and create a feeling of power and control over their relationship. This pattern can be mended in couples therapy.
A psychotherapist will help you understand why you or your partner does this. Then they will teach you how to create a more consistent, steady baseline of love in your connection, no matter what challenges you face, so that you both feel safe in your relationship at all times, even during disagreements.
4) You keep secrets from one another
Open communication, honesty and transparency are essential for all healthy relationships.
Secrets often develop when a partner is ashamed or embarrassed by the truth, or when they are worried about how their partner will respond. The key is to find the right way to share information with your partner so that you can talk about it together calmly.
A relationship therapist will help teach you the communication skills you both need so that you can have open conversations with one another and stop keeping secrets.
When you tell your partner the truth, they will be better able to support you because they will have a full understanding of all of your worries and struggles. Honest communication also builds trust.
A relationship counsellor will help you navigate any difficult conversations you need to have so that you can overcome the secrets that have been creating distance in your relationship.
5) You are not intimate with each other
Relationships go through many phases and changes, and the longer you and your partner are together, the more likely it is that you will experience periods where your sex life winds down a bit.
A dip in physical intimacy is especially common for couples who have young children. However, if you are struggling with a lack of intimacy and don’t know how to restore your connection, seeing a couples therapist, or even a sex therapist, could be a good idea.
Talking about sex is an important part of communicating as a couple. A couples therapist will help you use communication techniques and other strategies to rekindle your emotional and physical connection with one another.
6) You do not trust each other
Trust is foundational in all healthy relationships. When trust is lost, it can be difficult to get back. Without trust, it can feel as if you and your partner are on different sides, rather than members of the same team.
If you have noticed that you or your partner has started to rely on outside support from a friend or relative to cope, rather than turning to you for help with emotional issues, it could very well be time to see a couples counsellor.
7) You hide financial information from one another
If either one of you hides credit card statements, receipts, loans or savings information from the other, it is likely to create tension in your relationship. This secrecy can lead to a breakdown of trust.
A couples therapist will help you understand why you feel the need to keep financial matters secret and then show you how to heal this deeper issue. Your therapist will teach you and your partner new skills and strategies to build your confidence so that you can be fully transparent and manage your money together openly.
8) You have been unfaithful or are considering infidelity
Infidelity does not have to mean the end of a relationship. In fact, many couples who go through infidelity end up coming out stronger.
However, being unfaithful, or even just considering having an affair, is a very clear sign that you would benefit from couples therapy.
An affair is usually a sign that something deeper wants to be addressed in a relationship – often a core emotional need. A couples therapist will help you and your partner understand the root of the infidelity and guide you through rebuilding trust to repair your relationship, if that is what you both want.
9) You never argue
Not arguing at all is just as much a sign that you may need couples therapy as arguing frequently is.
While consistent arguing suggests there is an underlying tension that has not been addressed, never arguing indicates you are probably avoiding talking about things you need to discuss.
Conflict is a normal part of any relationship. As individuals, none of us will agree with each other 100% of the time. The key is to learn how to deal with conflict in a healthy and constructive way so that both parties feel heard and respected.
Working with a relationship therapist will create a safe space for you to tap into emotions you may have been pushing down. Your counsellor can then teach you and your partner how to express your opinions and deal with disagreements in a productive and loving way.
10) You lead separate lives
While having different hobbies, friends, interests and passions are all healthy ways to maintain a balanced relationship, if you and your partner spend the majority of your social time apart this is a clear sign you may need relationship counselling.
It is very common for families to lead busy lives that limit the amount of time couples can spend together. However, communication and intimacy are the core of a romantic relationship. Without these two things, partners can start to feel more like housemates.
If you have been experiencing an extended period of disconnect and detachment from your partner, you might want to see a couples therapist. A therapist can help you rebuild your connection, communication, interest and involvement in each others’ lives.
When is the right time to start couples therapy?
Generally, the best time to start couples therapy is long before you feel like you “need” to.
If you are at the point where you feel like your relationship really needs the help of a therapist, it is definitely time to book an appointment.
However, even if you feel like your relationship is going strong, it could still be a good idea for you to attend couples counselling with your partner.
One of the biggest misconceptions about couples therapy is that it is only for relationships that are crumbling. Couples therapy can be beneficial for any couple at any point in their relationship, even in the early “honeymoon” phase.
It is never too early to attend couples therapy. Relationship therapists can teach you powerful tools and skills to help you grow and deepen your relationship, building a foundation of trust and understanding.
Another misconception is that couples therapy is only for people who are married. Although marriage counselling is a branch of couples therapy, you do not need to be married to your partner in order for couples therapy to benefit your relationship.
In fact, you can prevent future relationship challenges by attending couples therapy sooner rather than later.
Starting couples therapy early is like building a solid foundation for a house. In contrast, beginning couples therapy only when you really “need” it is like trying to repair the foundation after the whole house has already been built. Both are possible, but starting early makes for a significantly simpler and easier process.
How to choose a couples therapist
Couples therapy is a specialised area of psychotherapy that requires additional training and a deep understanding of relationship dynamics.
When looking for a couples therapist, it is important to consider their experience and background. A good relationship counsellor will have an understanding of how relationships work, what can cause problems, and how to repair wounds and overcome challenges.
At the Blue Tree Clinic, our team of psychotherapists is highly-qualified and experienced. Several of the clinic’s therapists are specialists in relationship counselling. If you are looking for couples therapy in London, reach out to us here and we can help you find the best relationship therapist for you.
Couples therapy can benefit all types of couples. Whether you are dating or married, and have been together for decades or months, talking to a relationship therapist will very likely strengthen your connection and teach you lifelong skills to help you maintain a healthy relationship.To learn more about couples therapy at the Blue Tree Clinic, check out this page. Or, if you’re ready to start repairing your relationship now, book an appointment with us using our contact form here.