How to know it’s time to go to couples therapy

Couples therapy isn’t usually a term bandied about on date nights, but it doesn’t need to set off alarm bells either.

Most couples benefit from some help along the way to avoid the pain and isolation of a relationship in distress, says relationship counsellor Dan Auerbach.

How to know if your relationship is in trouble

“The two most common problem scenarios are the couple having regular arguments, and the couple who are not arguing but are feeling distant from each other,” says Dan.

Either sound familiar? If you recognise these patterns have been repeating without resolution, it’s time to talk to someone together.

“While most couples go through these phases, we know that many couples will get stuck in these cycles and the relationship will break down,” says Dan.

“Well-structured couples therapy with an experienced therapist can help to resolve conflict and restore intimacy.”

Don’t wait for the seven-year itch to seek help

People often regret not looking into counselling sooner, says Dan – or not agreeing to come to counselling when their partner first asks them to.

“Most couples benefit from seeking help much earlier than they do,” says Dan.

“Sadly, we know that couples who are having relationship difficulties wait for around seven years before getting help.”

Change how you communicate

“The goal of couples counselling is to help you and your partner understand your conflict or distancing cycle, so you can step out of these automatic and unproductive ways of responding,” says Dan.

“We then try to help you both learn how to express and respond to each other’s real feelings and needs.”

While each couple is different, Dan says often what’s revealed are simple universal needs for appreciation, responsiveness, interest and care.

Recognise your own faults

While your partner’s faults may be glaringly obvious to you, remember that you’re not perfect either.

“Couples normally come in to make the case against their partner, but the truth is that both have to learn to change,” says Dan.

So if you’re hoping your counsellor will only focus on your partner’s behaviour, you’ll be in for a surprise (and perhaps a few home truths).

“Be open, honest and curious about your own role in the relationship conflict,” advises Dan.

“For most people there’s a lot to learn.”

Written by Samantha Allemann