Should We See A Couples Therapist? Common Reasons Couples Seek Therapy

Should We See A Couples Therapist? Common Reasons Couples Seek Therapy

Hi, I’m Dr. Laura, licensed clinical psychologist and owner of Compass Psychological Services. I am passionate about providing evidence-based couples therapy to help couples lead their most fulfilling lives!

Couples often wonder if it is time to seek therapy to address issues of communication, intimacy, or other concerns with relationship dynamics that are negatively impacting their ability to function and lead a happy, balanced life. If you are reading this, you may have similar questions as to how therapists help couples address their problems in therapy. Read on to see if any of these common concerns resonate with you and see if it is time for you to speak to a trained couples therapist.

Communication Problems

Do conversations with your partner feel tense or unproductive? Do you often break away from conversations thinking your partner does not understand or care about you? 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of a balanced and fulfilling relationship. When we feel heard and seen by our partner, emotional and physical intimacy often naturally follow. When communication breaks down, it can lead to misunderstandings, detachment, hurt feelings, and unresolved, repetitive conflicts. Couples often seek therapy to improve their communication skills and learn how to express themselves more clearly, effectively, and empathetically.

Research indicates that poor communication is a leading predictor of relationship dissatisfaction and breakdown (Guerrero et al., 2013). Couples therapy can help couples identify communication patterns that aren’t working and develop healthier ways to express their thoughts and feelings. If you and your partner are having trouble expressing your needs, compromising effectively, or are routinely not feeling heard, respected, or validated, it may be time to seek couples therapy to address the habits and patterns that have contributed to the lack of successful communication.

Conflict Resolution

Does conflict in your relationship include eye rolling, yelling, sighing, mocking, or shutting down? 

Every relationship faces tension, disagreement, and a clashing of perspectives. Conflict is inevitable and natural and can even bring a couple closer together when it is diplomatic, respectful, and collaborative. However, couples who struggle consistently with resolving conflicts in a healthy manner may benefit from couples therapy. Research suggests that unresolved conflicts can lead to relationship distress, dissatisfaction, and breakdown (Kurdek, 1994).

In therapy, couples learn conflict resolution strategies, negotiation techniques, and problem-solving skills that empower them to tackle issues more constructively (Dattilio, 2018). Long-term ineffective conflict resolution can be the silent killer of relationships, leading to anger, contempt, and disconnection. It is never too late to address, process, and augment unhelpful conflict resolution in therapy, whether the goal is to heal the relationship, decouple, or co-parent effectively.

Infidelity and Trust Issues

Are you or your partner worried about cheating? Have you recently discovered your partner has been unfaithful? Do you or your partner suffer from jealousy or trust issues?

Unfortunately, when a partner steps out of a committed, monogamous relationship emotionally or physically, it can erode trust and intimacy if the goal is to move forward and heal within the partnership. Regardless, infidelity is a challenging issue in any relationship. The betrayal of trust can be devastating, and the road to recovery is often long and arduous. If infidelity or trust has been broken in your relationship, a trained therapist can help you rebuild trust, heal emotional wounds, and decide whether to continue the relationship.

Studies show that infidelity can have profound effects on relationship quality, but therapy can facilitate healing and the potential for reconciliation (Mark, 2011). Beyond reconcilliation, often couples who successfully recouple after infidelity find their relationship is stronger after identifying and addressing issues that lead to the emotional and physical disconnect.

Alternatively, navigating a breakup in the wake of infidelity is also challenging. Working with a couples or individual therapist to heal and to re-connect with your strengths and confidence is also vital in moving forward after facing infidelity in your past relationship.

Life Transitions and Stressors

Major life changes often cause a great deal of stress and bereavement between a couple, such as:

  • Parenthood
  • Infertility or a pregnancy loss
  • The death of a child or family member
  • Job and career changes
  • Separation, divorce
  • Relocation 

These concerns and more can strain a relationship. Therapists commonly assist couples in navigating these transitions, adapting to, processing and healing from these challenging circumstances. Research highlights that life transitions and external stressors can impact relationship satisfaction and connection but couples therapy can mitigate these effects (
Bodenmann et al., 2015).

Not all couples therapy focuses on healing and maintaining a partnership. Often, a couple seeks therapy to learn how to de-couple with respect and success. Especially when there are children involved, obtaining skills to effectively co-parent and process the wounds of separation and divorce as you transion from a couple to co-parents in a blended family are critical in maintaining a balanced, healthy, and successful life.

Emotional and Mental Health Issues

Are you having trouble coping with a partners anxiety or depression? Are you not sure how to best support them? Do you cope with these concerns and it is negatively impacting your relationship?

In couples therapy, it is common to have at least one individual identify with or have been diagnosed with a mental health concern, such as anxiety, depression, or trauma. These concerns can significantly affect a relationship. Couples therapy can provide a supportive environment for both partners to address these issues and explore how they impact their relationship and partner.

Research indicates that couples therapy can be an effective adjunct to individual therapy when mental health issues are present (Whisman, 2007).

Intimacy and Sexual Issues

Does your sex life seem stagnant? Do you feel disconnected emotionally and physically from your partner?

Identifying, discussing, and addressing issues of physical, emotional, and sexual intimacy can feel intimidating and elicit feelings of fear, shame, and insecurity for many. Intimacy and sexual disconnect and incongruence can lead to frustration and emotional distance in a relationship. Whether it’s a lack of desire, sexual dysfunction, or differing sexual preferences, couples therapy can provide a safe space to address these issues and find solutions.

Research has demonstrated that couples therapy can improve sexual satisfaction, intimacy, and overall relationship quality (McCarthy & Wald, 2012). If your concerns are exclusively related to sexual concerns, consider seeking out a specially trained therapist to address these concerns.

Should You and Your Partner Seek Couples Therapy?

If you are reading this article and can relate to at least one of these common concerns, the answer is likely “yes.” 

Relationships are complex, and even the strongest ones can face challenges. Seeking therapy from a trained therapist is a proactive and constructive step towards addressing these issues. Research supports the efficacy of couples therapy in resolving common problems, fostering better communication, and enhancing overall relationship satisfaction.

By taking this step, you and your partner can work together to overcome obstacles and build a healthier, more fulfilling partnership. Remember that it’s never too late to seek help and improve your relationship and situation.

Click here to schedule a free, 15-minute consultation with Dr. Laura