When Do Couples Need Counselling?


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Yes, it’s true, every relationship goes through ups and downs. You don’t need counselling every time there are arguments or quarrels between the two of you, but when there is a consistent pattern of disagreements and quarrels, it may be a sign that communication is breaking down. Communication breakdown is often a significant predictor of relationship breakdown.

Relationships revolve around love, friendship, and compromises. However, we understand that it’s not possible to compromise all the time for the same things over and over again. That’s where couples counseling services come into the picture. Professional family psychologists have extensive experience and expertise to help you learn new ways of relating to your partner. A couples counselor can help each person better connect with their emotions, and their partners emotions, leading to a greater willingness to listen and respond in an empathetic and supportive manner. With increased empathy and support there is less undesirable "fixing" going on. Fixing that often leads to further conflict. Instead, each person in the relationship becomes tuned to the messages underlying their partner's words, and the dance of caring and intimacy returns.

When should you look for couples counseling? Here are a few scenarios that may be indicators that help is needed:

Minimal Communication

While it’s okay to talk less, minimal or few expressions of love or meaningful conversation from day to day is definitely not normal in a healthy relationship. Increased meaningful communication strengthens the relationship for most couples. Less communication may create doubts and lead to unresolved differences in opinion. Lack of communication can result in individuals seeking emotional support and connection elsewhere. As a result, healthy communication between the two partners is essential to a healthy relationship.

Constant Bickering

Constant bickering may be a sign of communication breakdown. For the bickering couple, positive, supportive interactions have given way to negative interaction patterns as each person strives to maintain some form of connection regardless of how painful it may be. The psychological stress of constant negative interactions may leave a person feeling as if they are 'living in a war' or are 'misunderstood', 'unloved' or 'just not good enough'. Not only does this negative interaction style place the relationship at risk, it also harms the mental well-being and self-esteem of its participants. Individuals who are in relationships with constant bickering often report feeling judged, embarrassed, disregarded, ashamed, neglected, or insecure. If they stay in the negative relationship long enough, the participants may come to believe that 'this is just the way it is' or 'it's what I deserve'. This is completely untrue. Communication breakdown is a sign of unmet needs, unresolved issues (both current and past), and often fear of honest emotional expression. All of these are things that can be healed.

Significant Changes in the Bedroom

After being together with each other for a while, it’s common for sex to gradually decrease. But if there are significant changes in the bedroom that usually means there is something wrong. Similarly, if there is a sudden increase in sex, it may mean that one partner is trying to make up for something they feel they’ve done wrong. It may also mean that something has changed for your partner, either in how they feel about themselves, you, or the relationship in general. Neglecting these signals can lead to emotional confusion, and potentially breakdown of the relationship over time.

Small Things are Suddenly Big Issues

One of the first signs of things going wrong in a couples relationship is things that were previously small easily solved issues suddenly become larger. Little events become more irritating. Understanding and compromising occurs less and less often, and problem solving becomes harder. Often events that were not seen as significant begin to take on extra meaning (e.g. longer days at work, a change in recreational or personal interests, consistently forgetting to complete expected tasks, etc). These can all be indicators of a relationship breakdown and may require the assistance of a couples counselor to help get the relationship back on track.

Avoiding relationship difficulties does not make them go away. Even if the relationship does break down, left unaddressed negative communication styles and interactive habits have a tendency to repeat in future relationships. A family psychologist in Edmonton can help identify and resolve poor relationship issues, both for the health of your relationship now and in the future.