Couples’ counselling isn’t just for married couples on the brink of divorce. Some couples use it as a regular tune-up, hoping to address areas of conflict before contempt develops. Others seek it out early on in a relationship to see if certain issues can be worked through or are certain to become “irreconcilable differences.”
Here are some examples of when to seek couples’ counselling:
Communication is key in any healthy relationship, and sometimes you need to recruit a little help in that department. If your arguments lead nowhere, and you’re either repeating the same fights over and over or just avoiding certain topics altogether, it might be time to intentionally address how you communicate with each other. Unresolved conflict isn’t the only sign that communication is off, either. If you’re struggling with being vulnerable and open with your partner — or fear your partner isn’t being open with you — a counsellor can help address that, too.
You’ve tried to work things through on your own and it just isn’t working. You’re reaching stalemate. Whether you feel emotionally disconnected, unappreciated, or just bored, a counselling session might give you the tools to get “unstuck” and move forward together. Don’t wait for things to get worse.
You’re not fighting fair.
The couple that fights together, stays together. If you’re starting to view your partner as the enemy, and not as a teammate, it might be time to seek professional help. An unfair fight may include: name-calling, threats, the use of manipulative or condescending language, the rehashing old fights, or the refusal to stay on topic. A counsellor can help you distinguish between a fair fight and an unfair one, and equip you with strategies to address conflict in a more loving, productive manner.
“It’s not my fault.”
If one of you believes that the other person is wholly responsible for what’s wrong in the relationship, professional intervention might be needed. The longer resentment builds, the harder it will be to correct course or start afresh.
Maybe you can’t shake the feeling that your partner’s parents hate you. Maybe you butt heads with his siblings and feel like he takes their side, not yours. Or maybe you can’t agree on how you’ll raise your hypothetical future children. Our families of origin shape who we are — for better or for worse. If family is a stressful topic, let a professional help you work through it before you start feeling like Romeo and Juliet. (Spoiler alert: They didn’t get a happy ending.)
One of you wants it.
If one of you wants to go to counselling, go to counselling. Validate his or her concerns and try to show respect for the process, even if you’re not certain therapy is necessary. You might be surprised to discover that you and your partner have some important things to work through after all.
Something’s just off — or missing.
Every couple can expect to encounter different phases in their relationship. It won’t always be roses and candlelight. But when something feels “off” — you catch yourself keeping secrets from your partner, your sex life has changed significantly, you’re nagging at each other all day or you’re no longer respecting the other’s opinion, for example — it doesn’t hurt to seek some advice before “off” becomes “over.”
And maybe everything’s going really well, but you’re still struggling to commit further and you’re not sure why. You’re two very different people bringing different things to the proverbial table. A counsellor can help you determine what you each need from the relationship and how to best set yourselves up for success, as individuals and as a couple.