Relationships: When Should You Consider Couples Therapy?

There comes a time in a relationship when couples therapy is a definite option. The question then, is when is that time? Few relationships, if any, are easy or without their challenges. If you are an entrepreneur or business owner facing all kinds of demands, the chances are good that at some stage your marriage could be affected. Stress has a definite negative impact on relationships unless we consciously counteract its impact.

There are certain signs that may indicate that couples therapy would be valuable. Take note of the patterns that have occurred in your relationship over time. Are you able to see what the real underlying issues are? It is so easy to fall into unhelpful or destructive ways of interacting and before you know it these become the norm.

The most obvious signs include:

  • Constant arguing e.g. around finances, how the children are raised, time spent at work or behind the computer, extended family commitments, etc. This also includes one of the partners continuously putting the other one down. Continuous fighting or being vindictive in front of the children. Children playing up can also be a symptom of problems within a marriage.
  • Defensive interactions where you and your spouse continuously trigger buttons with each other. Either of you tends to take everything personally or you bring out the worst in each other. An example is where arguments become more about winning and not problem-solving for a good outcome.
  • Lack of respect. This includes failing to respect each other’s time, space, bodies, opinions, style, etc. A divorcee made the following comment: “Once respect goes then things fall apart. ‎Speaking badly to each other and loss of nurturing of the relationship sets in. Lack of respect in the bedroom means bullying the other person into having sex when they are not up to it. Any kind of coercion in the bedroom is reason for therapy. Sex is such an important part of an intimate relationship, but it needs to be loving, respectful, consensual and enjoyable.”
  • No longer being able to be yourself. This includes a fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. You may feel it is safer to keep quiet than to say anything at all. Either you or your partner have withdrawn emotionally from the relationship.
  • No longer being heard by your partner. Whatever you say or feel is blatantly ignored or stonewalled by your partner. Or your partner reacts cynically, emotively, critically or just disengages from any attempt to find common ground. Often when the one partner becomes more passive, the other becomes more confrontational or aggressive.
  • Partners begin to lead their own life making little or no time for each other. This can happen very easily when there are children.
  • When the self-esteem of either partner is slowly being eroded to the extent that that person loses complete confidence in themselves.
  • When the couple is unable to resolve differences between themselves in a constructive and amicable way.

Unfortunately with the increase in pressures these days, abusive relationships are becoming more prevalent among well-educated and “successful” couples. Intervention by a qualified therapist is crucial when any of the following warning bells appear in a relationship:

  • Jealousy: checking your cell phone and people with whom you have contact. “Reading” infidelity into any of your interactions with members of the opposite sex
  • Controlling behaviour: saying who you can or cannot see, controlling all the finances, checking on your movements at all times, continuous power plays and control games
  • Verbal abuse: demeaning and belittling you and telling you how worthless or stupid you are
  • Threats to harm you, the children or your pets
  • Isolating you from your family

Each of us needs to feel emotionally, psychologically and physically safe in our relationship. When this safe space is threatened over a period of time, we lose our spontaneity. The fun disappears and our intimate relationship suffers. When there is ongoing stress in your marriage it will start to impact on your emotional well-being.

Going for couples therapy is not about admitting failure. It is about involving an independent outsider to help you identify and address unhelpful patterns in your relationship. It is about identifying and resolving the buttons that are pressed and learning ways to manage the intricacies of being in a close relationship with someone.

Often we forget that we bring our own emotional baggage and coping styles to our marriage. So there are two parties each with their own issues who need to find new ways to interact. It is best to consult a therapist before either of the parties have disengaged totally and see divorce as the only option.

Posted in Relationships, Therapy.