Most of us know that couples therapy is a resource to consider if you and your partner find yourselves arguing all the time and don’t know what to do about it. Most people also think about seeking professional help if there’s been an affair. But these are far from the only reasons to see a couples therapist. In fact, most couples therapists would probably prefer that couples seek out their services before things get to the breaking point. Relationship therapy can be a wonderful way to strengthen an already healthy and loving partnership, because let’s face it: no relationship is perfect, seeing as none of us in relationships are perfect. A skilled couples therapist can go a long way to helping you and your partner work through these issues and come out the other side with newfound energy and desire to invest in the relationship. 

Here are 8 great reasons to consider relationship therapy*:

1. You want to learn how to argue better.

For whatever reason, few of us grew up with positive role models for conflict resolution. Maybe we learned that fighting often leads to harm or rejection, or our parents never argued in front of us, preferring to either stuff down their disagreements or save them for when the kids weren’t around. Maybe we grew up with only one parent who didn’t have many relationships while we were living at home. Whatever the reasons, many of us enter into our own relationships feeling ill-equipped to resolve arguments in a healthy and constructive way. Moreover, we tend to partner with people whose experiences with conflict are different from our own. A couples therapist can help you and your partner understand how your early experiences of conflict inform your approaches to it now, and then help you replace those unhelpful early learning experiences with constructive, effective strategies that will not only strengthen your relationship, but will help you model healthy conflict resolution for your own kids (should you have any). 

2. You are stuck on a specific issue or decision.

Oftentimes in a long-term relationship, situations arise in which you and your partner need to make a joint decision, but you are struggling to get on the same page. The stakes feel high and neither of you believes compromise is the way to go. Examples that come to mind are things like having kids (or more kids), moving to a different part of the country for a job opportunity, or buying a bigger house. When situations like these come up, and you and your partner are far from reaching an agreement, it may be a good idea to bring a professional in to help you talk through what’s at stake, your respective reasons behind your position on the issue, and what you each need from each other in order to come to a decision you both feel good about. 

3. You don’t know how to stay emotionally regulated when talking about certain topics. 

Certain topics – for example, money, sex, and parenting – seem to bring out bigger feelings than others, which means that even a couple that typically can stay calm while working through differences may suddenly find themselves entangled in an out-of-control fight, or shutting down completely, and nothing ever gets resolved. A couples therapist can help you lower the emotional temperature in the room by teaching both of you skills for regulating your emotions, as well as the communication skills you need when venturing into hot button topics. They can also help you figure out what it is about these topics that is so triggering for each of you, so that you can work through it (possibly in individual therapy) and be able to separate your own past trauma and painful experiences from those in your current relationship. 

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4. It feels like your partner has changed and you’re not sure you like it (and maybe they say the same thing about you).

People change. Values, goals, health (physical and mental), desires, needs, all of these can – and often do – change over time. This means the person you met 5, 10, or 20 years ago has likely changed in ways you didn’t predict and may not necessarily appreciate. Conversely, one person might feel like they have changed while their partner seemingly hasn’t changed at all, which can leave them feeling like they have “outgrown” the relationship. This can be a particularly scary thought process to navigate, since your partner hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong, and yet, you find yourself wondering if it’s still a good match. Couples therapy is a great way to approach this difficult phase of the relationship by helping you and your partner understand the ways in which each of you has (or has not) changed, and then figuring out if there are ways to approach these differences that don’t necessitate calling it quits. 

5. The relationship feels stuck in a rut.

No relationship is unicorns and rainbows all day, every day. Add jobs, kids, money stress, a pandemic, or just the mundaneness of daily life to the mix, and a couple can end up feeling more like roommates than lovers. Couples therapy is a great space for identifying how the spark you once had got snuffed out, and then help you reignite it. 

6. There’s been a breach of trust (and we’re not just talking about infidelity).

Affairs aren’t the only way a person can betray their partner. Gambling, hidden substance use issues, secret purchases, or simply lying to your partner repeatedly: all of these can create serious breaches of trust in a partnership. If left unaddressed, resentment and contempt can foment within the relationship, making it increasingly difficult to repair the damage as time goes on. Couples therapy, especially if the therapist is brought in soon after the betrayal is discovered, can help mitigate the damage by getting to the underlying causes of the betrayal, and then helping the couple create a plan for healing and rebuilding trust. 

7. Your differences are becoming a problem.

It has often been observed that the traits we are drawn to in a partner are the very same aspects of the person that drive us crazy later on. You fell in love with your partner because they were calm and stable, and now it just feels like they’re boring and predictable. Or you were drawn to their intensity and creative spirit, but now they just seem emotionally unstable and impractical. You enjoyed being the “planner” at the beginning of the relationship, but now you wish your partner would step up and make things happen once in a while. While this relationship phenomenon is about as normal as it gets, that doesn’t make it less frustrating, nor is it always clear what to do about your grievances. A couples therapist can help each of you figure out what it is about these differences that is getting under your skin, then help each of you determine which of your partner’s traits are truly damaging to the relationship, and which ones may require a reframe on your part so that they don’t bother you so much.

8. You want help navigating a non-traditional relationship structure.

Not everyone is in a “traditional” two-person, monogamous relationship. And yet, most of the information and services out there are geared toward couples who identify as monogamous, which can make it difficult to know what to do when you want help addressing issues in your non-traditional relationship. You may worry (with good reason) that the therapist will judge the relationship structure as the problem, and thus won’t be able to help you and your partner(s) get to the root of the actual issues you want to address. Fortunately, more and more therapists are getting trained in how to provide competent, non-judgmental therapy for people in these kinds of relationship structures (including therapists here at LynLake). 

Couples therapy is about investing in your relationship. Like anything we value and want to last, a relationship requires time and attention, and sometimes that means overcoming the discomfort you may feel at the idea of letting a 3rd party in on your relationship struggles. But the right relationship therapist can be a true game-changer, so if you think you and your partner(s) may benefit from relationship therapy, we would encourage you to complete our intake form at LynLake Centers for Wellbeing today, to get started on the path to a stronger relationship. We offer relationship and couples therapy at both our Minneapolis and St. Paul locations. 

*While this blog often mentions “partner” in the singular, please note that we recognize some people have more than one partner, and while the issues that arise in polyamorous relationships may overlap in many areas with two-person partnerships, they also present their own unique dynamics. We plan to address some of these in a future post, so stay tuned!