Something doesn’t feel right in your relationship, but you are having trouble putting your finger on it. There are more arguments over trivial issues, more criticisms flying back and forth, and a general sense of unhappiness. It’s starting to feel like this turmoil is about more than just dirty socks on the floor. Is this an indication it’s time to seek out couples counseling?
One of the biggest misconceptions about couples therapy is about when it’s necessary. People assume a couples therapist is the last option before a marriage falls apart. In Ian Kerner’s point of view, “Couples should seek therapy long before they think they “need” to.” 
Kerner is a couples therapist and contributor to CNN, and he feels therapy is an essential ingredient to strengthen a relationship long before it hits the crisis point. A few sessions in therapy may save your struggling marriage from breaking apart, but it may enhance the intimacy and passion of an otherwise happy marriage as well.
There are many signals that it’s time to seek professional relationship advice, and not all obvious. To help you determine whether its time to head to the therapist’s office with your partner, we’ve highlighted the most common signs for you to consider. And if you are worried about what to expect during your first session – don’t worry we’ve covered that as well.
10 Signs or Reasons you Should go to Couples Therapy
1. There is a Sudden Shift in Sexual Intimacy
The happiest couples have sex at least once per week, according to an analysis done in 2015. That number is, of course, is just the average, and the ideal number will look different to everyone. No matter the number of times it happens, sex and sexual intimacy is a critical aspect of any relationship. A sudden shift towards less frequent or more frequent sexual activity may indicate more than just changing sex drive. It may mean there is an underlying issue needed addressing.
One of you could be withholding sex as punishment, or you may be pushing for more sex to make up for lack of connection elsewhere. Changing sex drive may also indicate issues with depression, anxiety, or another mental health issue. Finding out the root cause behind why your sex life has suddenly changed may help to address other relationship problems needing attention. 
2. You have Trouble Talking About Finances
According to an Ameriprise Financial survey, 31 percent of their clients fight about finances with their spouse at least once every 30 days. Money is often a stressful topic between partners, even otherwise happy ones. Considering most of us find money a stressful topic to begin with, suddenly being expected to share with another person a pretty daunting assignment.
A couples therapist can give you the tools to start talking about money without negative connotations and emotional reactions. Instead of avoiding the topic, or exploding over it, you’ll learn how to work through challenging financial conversations calmly and pointedly to reach a resolution.
3. Even Minor Discussions Lead to Massive Fights
Kristie Overstreet, a mental health counselor, said in an interview for CNN, that “Most issues within a couple start small and then grow in size when they don’t get resolved.” This is yet another area where therapy can come in handy.
Unwashed dishes may not have been an issue a few years ago, but today they trigger massive arguments. Fights over the credit card bill might have fizzled before Christmas, but now only unravel into tears. Let a counselor step in between to find out why minor issues are now so explosive. There may be something neither of you recognizes which needs discussion.
4. There is a Total Breakdown in Communication
Nearly 25 percent of couples have texted each other when they are both at home together. Does this sound familiar? If your communication has deteriorated to such a degree that it’s either non-existent or only negative in nature – is a sure sign it’s time to speak with a relationship expert. 
If you find yourself angrily texting your partner, instead of calmly discussing your concerns, a counselor can help you both get out of this negative pattern of communication. Break the habit with new approaches, techniques, and skills all under the careful guidance of your therapist. A therapist works with both sides to strengthen communication (and the listening) from both directions.
5. You Feel Stuck in a Boring Routine
Of all the marriages which don’t make it to the finish, the average duration before the divorce is eight years. It would be interesting to find out if how many of these couples would define the end of their marriage as boring. Feeling in a rut can lead to some questionable extra-marital relationships. If one or both of you find the relationship lackluster, it gets easier to find excitement in other places.
Over time, it’s only natural routines to form as you grow closer together, after all not every day can be a thrilling and passionate adventure. Passionate feelings turn into those of comfort, and with this shift, you may find you lose the spark.
If either you or your spouse is looking to deepen your connection to each other, a counselor can advise how to do this. Learning to not only spend time together but to enjoy this time together can help to spice up the usual routine. 
6. You are Living Separate Lives Under the Same Roof
Spending time together leads to happier relationships. A couple that schedules quality time together at least once per week (as in a date night) are 3.5 times more likely to be more content with the relationship overall. To reiterate, clear data shows both men and women find the relationship deeper and more meaningful, the more time they spend together. 
If you and your partner have grown apart over the years, so that you barely spend time together unless it’s mandatory – you might need help trying to connect. Finding (or re-finding) common interests might feel impossible after so many years operating as individuals, but its where a therapist can design routes of reconnection.
7. The Trust is Gone
There is an equal split between young men and women when it comes to infidelity. Between the ages of 18 to 24, 10 to 11 percent admit to cheating on their partner. In older couples, men are more likely than women to cheat, by roughly 10 percent. Although this statistic comes from research on sexual indiscretions, emotional infidelity is also an issue many couples face.
If you no longer trust your partner due to past experiences or perhaps more recent affairs, it doesn’t bode well for the future. Learning to overcome issues of trust are incredibly challenging, and it often takes the delicate work of a couples counselor to work through the wrongs in a healthy and meaningful way.
8. One or Both of You Have Explosive Tempers
10 percent of American adults have anger issues. It’s highly likely that you have experience with a friend or family member with a hot temper, but what happens when it’s your loved one? If every emotion is one of anger, it’s had to move ahead. Every discussion can’t end in tears and yelling, or else you’ll never make any progress. 
Anger is such a common issue in relationships that all counselors are well equipped to help both parties manage it. If you are the one with a temper, a therapist can help you find ways to emote without the rage. You’ll also glean a better understanding of how your anger responses affect the relationship as a whole. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll learn how to process an anger outburst, and calmly respond.
9. Your Family is Processing Trauma
Today, roughly 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women report having experienced a traumatic experience in their lifetime. No matter the original cause of the trauma, the effects tend to linger. They trickle down through every other aspect of life, appearing where you least expect it. Unaddressed trauma may impact your relationship in ways neither you nor your partner expects. 
Therapists are well outfitted to help people with through trauma, and relationship therapists are no different. Whether the couple is working through a trauma experienced together (like the death of a family member), or trauma suffered individually, a counselor allows for a path through the pain.
10. The Spark is Gone
Nobody gives you a road map to your relationship before you start – which is why you might get lost as you aimlessly wander through the different phases. According to many relationship experts, there are three to four stages of love including passionate love, strengthening a bond, disillusionment, and long-lasting love.
If you find yourself in the third stage, the disillusionment stage, you might start to question the relationship. It’s hard to see the other person in the light you did in the earlier stages, instead, you only see their flaws. Many couples give up in this stage because they find it impossible to work through the issues. But if you have a counselor working with you, you could find yourselves with a stronger bond than before as you pass through the third phase, and enter into the fourth stage of long-lasting love.
What to Expect in Couples Therapy
The very first session of couples therapy is often much different than what people expect. It’s common for one or both parties to proudly walk into the session waiting for the therapist to side with them, and give their partner a stern talking too. But, a therapist isn’t there to take sides, and shouldn’t be expected to.
“There are three sides to every story: his side, her side and the truth,” according to psychotherapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson. It’s this non-partisan approach to finding common ground which makes a counselor well-suited to strengthening your relationship no matter what stage it’s at. 
Your very first session likely won’t get into the nitty-gritty details of your relationship troubles. The first session is a meet and greet, and allows the counselor to get to know you both. It also allows you to get a feel for your counselor. Your counselor might want to know why you choose to schedule a session, and what your goals are for the duration of your time together. The first session is a brief introduction to the experience and what’s to come.
Your first meeting should feel like you and your partner sat down with a neutral third party. The therapist will listen attentively and ask a few questions (some of which might feel slightly uncomfortable). The therapist will always strive to guide the conversation away from accusations, criticisms, and disrespect, and work to keep the environment positive and non-judgemental.
Relationship counselors are experts in fostering intimacy, passion, and excitement even if the spark has long gone out. They know how to open up strong communication channels and how to balance heated emotions. While you might not have studied relationships sciences and psychology before you got married, therapists have.
Truth be told, if you are in a serious, long term relationship – no matter how happy or unhappy it is, it’s very likely you can benefit from a little professional guidance. Take Kerner’s advice, and don’t wait until your relationship hits the crisis point before you look for help.