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Couples Counseling 101

8 key indicators that couples work is for you.

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As a clinician, I have worked with couples for decades, running the gamut of marriages on the brink of divorce, life partnerships in peril of breaking up, engaged couples trying to decide whether to take the next step and lovers in trouble because they just don’t get along.

How do you know whether your relationship might benefit from couples counseling or if what you’re going through is just what couples go through? Even though it might seem logical that counseling would be the way to go when problems occur, couples oftentimes feel their relationship is too far gone to benefit from help. So how do you determine whether couples counseling is the way to go when things are not going well?

Things are never perfect in relationships in general but there are some indicators of whether the relationship is in need of professional help. Based on years of doing couples work, the following issues come up over and over again in couples counseling and are frequently the things that require professional intervention:

  1. You are rarely or never able to have an argument and feel like you actually made progress in resolving an issue or understanding the other better.
  2. You think a lot about ending the relationship or divorce but are ambivalent more than sure.
  3. You are at the point where you don’t even bother to have a conversation because you know it’s going nowhere and discussions most times ends in a fight.
  4. You feel sad when you think about how bad things have turned out between you.
  5. There is a triangle in the relationship—a person or entity that competes with the intimacy between the two of you.
  6. Your parents’ marriage was awful but you find yourself doing the same things.
  7. You are angry at your partner and feel like the anger will never go away.
  8. You might believe you love your partner but have a hard time remembering why.

Couples therapists are trained to understand the variables and issues involved in healthy relationships. Having a clinically trained third party to observe, intervene, and provide a customized plan in response to what’s going on in the relationship is pretty much what couples counseling is about. It’s also the arena where you can explore the dysfunction in the relationship and learn tools to help navigate the landmines, learn to communicate, and handle the tough stuff. Couples counseling is a means of learning how and if your relationship has the potential and resilience to last past the bad times. You might owe it to yourself to try.