5 Signs It’s Time for Couples Therapy
At 19 years old, I went to individual counseling to cope with a breakup and the sudden reappearance of my father. The bad boy I dated didn’t want me anymore. I’m not sure he ever did. As for my father, he abandoned my family in 1990.
I was 12 when he left, and I never expressed my anger, sadness or guilt. You see, like many Daddyless daughters, I thought his departure was my fault. That’s a heavy burden to carry for any young woman. Fast forward seven years and I am sitting on a sofa, divulging my secrets and working through my fear of abandonment with a therapist.
My family was not happy about my therapy sessions. Handle your problems by talking to me, my mom counseled. Shake it off, one of my aunts barked. They didn’t think anyone should be in my business, or worse, our family’s business. But, sometimes therapy is essential. If I hadn’t gone to therapy twice (I also went at 24), I wouldn’t have realized that I deserve more than a romantic relationship with a junior version of my father.
Couples especially need to be open to therapy, particularly before the drama leads to divorce. So, when is it time to hit the therapist’s couch? I spoke to a few relationship counselors to get their input. Here are five signs that couples counseling is the next step in your relationship.
Sometimes couples just can’t communicate. Whether their style of communication clashes, or you just don’t want to rock the boat, it will ruin your relationship. Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical counselor from California, says that “feeling as though you are not able to communicate openly to a spouse and ‘fear’ of talking or opening up” is a sure sign that you need couples counseling.”
Before It Gets Ugly
Couples counseling can be preventative. Engaged couples will benefit from counseling as it will explore their values. Bahar also says that it helps normalize the idealization of marriage. “Marriage is a beautiful experience, and yet it can be destroyed if disillusioned too late,” she explains. Attending therapy sessions previous to marriage will help a couple know who they are as individuals and whom they are marrying before walking down the aisle.
You’re In a Rut
According to Dr. Mark E. Sharp, a psychologist from The Aiki Relationship Institute in Illinois, being in a rut may be the biggest sign that couples need counseling. But what does a rut look like? “It feels like the couple is doing the same thing over and over again. No matter what they do they seem to end up in the same place,” Sharp expands. “This means the couple has fallen into a pattern that they can’t find their own way out of. Once they recognize this, they should seek counseling sooner rather than later.”
Intimacy isn’t just about sex. It is also about closeness and our ability to be vulnerable with our partners. When intimacy dies in a relationship, or too much pain has led us to build walls, couples therapy is a must. Michael Hottman, a Licensed Professional Counselor from Virginia, agrees. “The biggest signs beside a significant event is emotional distance,” he states. Before it gets to the point where you can’t even hug your partner, seek professional help.
Hopefully, it doesn’t come to this but often times couples seek therapy when they are in crisis mode. When a spouse cheats or a couple can’t communicate without hollering, this is when a light bulb goes on and they say, “Let’s go to therapy.” It shouldn’t have to come to this. Couples should seek therapy as soon as struggles appear. It’s either that or the dreaded “D” word.
Sujeiry Gonzalez is the Love Guru for Exitos 93.9FM, a relationship expert and the author of Love Trips. Get her relationship advice daily on LoveSujeiry.com.