Family life

6 signs you need couples therapy

Here are signs you and your partner might benefit from couples therapy, and what to expect from it.

6 signs you need couples therapy

Relationships have highs and lows. They ebb and flow. You don’t need a therapist every time the tide recedes. Indeed, you’ve probably learned to wait patiently for equilibrium to be restored. And, when waiting it out isn’t an option, you’ve probably learned how to work it out.

But what if you can’t work it out? And what if you’ve been waiting for “better days” for far too long? Here are some signs your relationship might benefit from couples therapy.

You keep having the same arguments

Here we go again. You have the same argument again and again. It starts innocently enough but inevitably ends in a rehashing of the same sodden script. You are locked in a vicious two-step — frequently a dance in which one of you blames and the other defends, one advance and one retreat (something marriage guru Sue Johnson calls the "protest polka").

A therapist will help you uncover root causes — the vulnerabilities that are your real triggers — and break the deadlock.

6 signs you need couples therapy

Photo: iStockphoto

The silence is deafening

You are in full retreat. You may both be aware that there are serious fractures in the relationship, but no one’s saying anything. The deadly quiet masks deep disquietude and complete discouragement.


A therapist will offer encouragement. Indeed, "courage" comes from the Latin root "cour," or heart. So, to "encourage" literally means to “find heart.” How apt.

You've stopped having sex

Sex? What’s that? A lack of emotional intimacy has led to a lack of physical intimacy. She pretends she’s asleep when he crawls beside her, and he’s stopped caring about the pretense.

Sex (or lack thereof) is a barometer of emotional health. Its lack tells a therapist that intimacy is missing or that sex has become a tool of power or revenge in a broken marriage. She’ll help restore intimacy and rebalance power dynamics.

6 signs you need couples therapy Photo: iStockphoto

Nasty nitpicking

Your every exchange is marked by acrimony and sarcasm — “hurt tied up with a bow,” as my friend and co-therapist Alyson Schafer calls it. You find fault in everything, and so does he. There’s no slack cut, no benefit of the doubt granted. Kindness has officially left the relationship, taking your sense of humour with it.

Nitpicking and scorekeeping are signs of disconnection. You have lost faith in the other’s love, appreciation and commitment. A therapist will help you reconnect and refocus on the big things, the things that matter, so that you won’t need to sweat the small stuff.

You're on the road to nowhere


You are suffering from what I call "marriage malaise." Nothing’s broken, but still, you feel you need a fix. You’ve become roommates; the love is stale.

For many, couples therapy is a tonic; the tune-up makes your relationship hum. Maybe you learn a few new tricks, or the simple commitment of an hour each week will put the spring back in your two-step.

6 signs you need couples therapy Photo: iStockphoto

You've fallen, and you can't get up

Every relationship has rough patches. But when the solutions that usually work just don’t, you should get some help.

A therapist will not only give you some fresh ideas, but she’ll also help you hear each other in new ways. Let’s face it: We can all grow partner-deaf — we stop seeing and hearing our loved one just because we’ve seen and heard it all before. Counselling will help you learn to listen on a deeper level and hear even the unspoken. That’s marriage magic.

This article was originally published on Jul 03, 2013

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.