Marriage therapy, also known as couples counselling, can sound daunting at first but keep in mind that even the happiest of couples hit a few roadblocks sometimes and there is no shame in needing help. In fact, seeking help goes to show how much you value and respect one another.

Whether or not you are married, with or without kids, living together or are currently coping with long distance – couples need to learn healthy ways of communicating and how to meet their partner’s needs without sacrificing their own. Not putting much importance on these can lead to repetitive arguments, misunderstandings, and even hurtful actions that may take over your relationship.

While the above-mentioned are all normal to experience from time to time, where should you draw the line? Here are 5 ways to tell if you need to seek couples counselling:

When you are just “coexisting” instead of forming a “partnership”

Ask yourself these:

· Does it feel like you are more of roommates than partners?

· Do you tend to withdraw from each other and avoid spending time together?

· Do you feel indifferent towards your partner, like you have nothing in common anymore, or that both of you are growing apart?

These are signs that you lack quality communication, intimacy, and other personal factors that both of you feel are important in a relationship. Especially for long-term couples, it’s normal not to feel the need to do everything together like when you first started dating, but it should not reach the point where you are merely coexisting.

The distance may seem unproblematic at first but the longer you avoid it and make excuses then the longer it will continue. This will undoubtedly increase the space and distance between you and your spouse. During this time, you both learn to fill your lives with other individual activities until you have very little connection. By seeking couples counselling while it is fresh, you can better remember what brought you together in the first place and reignite what is lost.

When you have recurring conflicts that are unproductive and hurtful

Ask yourself these:

· Do you often argue about religion, values, money, sex, and other topics without finding a resolution?

· Do you usually criticize each other and feel defensive?

Conflicts are normal and can be healthy, but when handled poorly, they can lead to toxicity and destructiveness. It is less in what you talk about, but more in how you talk about it. Poor communication can leave you both feeling insecure, disregarded, disrespected, and other negative perceptions. You may both even be aware that there is something wrong in how you handle differences but are at a loss on how to fix it. Whether you bicker over minuscule or heavy things, couples therapy can greatly help you practice how to diffuse the tension in a respectful and reasonable manner.

When one or both of you have been unfaithful

It takes a lot of work to recover from an affair. The amount of forgiveness, understanding, and patience can be stressful but if you are both committed to working things out then all is not lost.

When your partner has been unfaithful, or at the very least considered it, feelings of insecurity and a lack of trust within your union are normal to have. In fact, unfaithfulness can even stem past physical infidelity. It can be in the form of emotional betrayal, hiding a secret such as addiction, or even abuse. It can mean different things to different people and at varying levels.

Unresolved issues that have been left for years can sometimes trigger unfaithfulness. Couples counselling can help prevent this from happening if you seek it early on before problems get heavy. Couples counselling can also help mend the partnership if infidelity has already taken place by opening up a space for communication and offering guidance through each step.

When you lack intimacy

This was briefly mentioned under the first sign, but it needs its own explanation. A study featured in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy showed that nearly 50% of recently divorced couples cited the lack of intimacy as the reason for their separation.

Some people think of intimacy as only physical – as in their sex lives are either lacking or just not satisfying enough. There are many factors that can contribute to this: lifestyle, poor communication, recent events, medical issues, the list goes on. Other people regard intimacy as more than sex – as in active listening, forehead kisses, small acts of kindness, and the like. It doesn’t really matter how you both define intimacy, as long as you have a shared definition and are both satisfied with what you receive. If not, couples’ therapy can be useful in getting you on the same page and guiding you in fulfilling each other’s need for more intimacy

When you are considering a divorce

More often than not, married couples start to seek marital counseling only once they have considered divorce but both want to check if they can still fix it. They think of marital therapy as the last option to solve their situation, when really it should have been one of the early things to try out when things were fresh and in still in development.

Marital therapy is not only to keep couples together; sometimes it is the best way to have a respectful and amicable separation. If after many sessions it is deemed that the marriage cannot work out, marital counselling can help prevent a messy divorce and guide both individuals through the process with the least amount of damage to either one.

How does couples therapy help?

Daily life can be full of demands and stress factors from all facets – work, family, friends, or personal. All of these can add up, exhausting us, and making it more challenging for partners to feel connected to one another. By seeking couples counselling, a therapist can help by providing tools and strategies to better express your needs that are not being met. They can also widen your perceptions and help you see things in a way you didn’t think about or consider before, all because a “fresh eye” can bring about an objective realization.

The American Psychological Association notes that 75% of couples who met with a marital therapist have reported an improvement in their relationships and that they feel they should have gone sooner instead of struggling for years. Improvements achieved through therapy are continual and stay progressive because it is not only there to provide a one-time fix. Therapy helps build stronger foundations and form better habits by changing the negative patterns that are on loop between you two and replacing them with healthier means. If you are seeking a couples therapist in Edmonton, AB, ReDiscover Psychological Services can help. Our therapists have extensive training and knowledge and we can match you with a suitable couples counsellor to help you and your partner with your relationship goals.