When you think of couples counseling, your mind may automatically imagine stereotypes of people and relationships with “major issues.” Because of this, you might be afraid to even wonder if you and your partner may be in need of couples counseling. You might be quick to say, “We aren’t those kind of people in need of that kind of help.”
But the truth is couples counseling isn’t what the stereotypes make it out to be. Just because two people seek a couples therapist, doesn’t mean they’re headed for divorce or a life of unhappiness. On the contrary, when a couple seeks professional help, this often indicates they care enough about their relationship to try to save it and make the most of it, which is a very good sign. And the helpful tools a therapist can give them will help them live a happy life together.
So, what are the signs a couple needs to see a couples counselor or marriage therapist? Read these three 3 serious signs you need couples counseling below to decide if you and your partner should seek help.
1. Communication is failing
If you and your partner have stopped talking and are giving each other the silent treatment, that is a sign you need help. Or, if the both of you do talk, but your conversation always ends up being negative or you always fight about the same issues, you probably want to seriously consider getting a therapist onboard. Another communication fail is when one or both partners are afraid to talk about certain issues. Negative communication manifests when people feel judged, insecure, shamed, or unheard. Often it can be more about how something is said rather than what is actually said—tone tremendously affects communication for better or for worse. You have to be careful because negative communication can quickly become verbal or emotional abuse if not kept in check. A therapist can act as an objective third-party facilitator. He or she can offer you new ways to communicate and help you both understand more clearly what the two of you are talking about. A counselor can help uncover what is really causing negative communication and give you tools to solve underlying issues. He or she will help you understand what each other’s needs are, and teach you to speak in a more healthy way.
2. Sex is rare, robotic, or withheld as punishment.
Sex can literally be a way to measure an individual’s or a couple’s emotional health. It is never okay to withhold sex as a sort of punishment to the other partner. Nor is it ever okay to use sex as a tool to get your way, e.g., “I’ll only have sex with you if you do x, y, or z.” If sex is consistently handled this way in your relationship, get help. If you are never or rarely intimate with each other, then that too is a sign there are other underlying problems. And, if a couple is having sex but it is mostly done coldly, dispassionately, or even robotically, then this also is a sign that it may be time to seek a counselor. A sex therapist and couples counselor will help you restore intimacy and rebalance instability. He or she will help you figure out what the cause is for a lack of intimacy and help you modify thinking and behavior as individuals and as a couple.
3. Infidelity is present.
There are many ways a couple can be unfaithful to one another. Infidelity can literally be having an affair with another person or merely fantasizing about having one. Whether cheating has already occurred or it is being planned, this is a sign your marriage is struggling and could use the support of a qualified therapist. It is possible for a marriage or other relationship to survive after one partner has been unfaithful. However, if staying together isn’t the best option, the counselor can help both people move on and accept that splitting up is the healthiest and best choice for everyone. Another way, not often thought of, for a couple to be unfaithful is through finances. If one partner is withholding information about or access to finances, this is a red flag and a reason to seek professional help. It’s no secret that money problems are a cause of divorce. Get help early on before things get out of hand. If things are already out of hand, still get help. There are other signs that indicate a couple should seek counseling. But these 3 above are some of the most common and most important ones to look out for. If you’re unsure if you should see a therapist, but you think you may want to, there is no harm in calling up a couples counselor to see what he or she thinks.