15 Situations You Might Want to Seek Couples Therapy For

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC / Relationships / Therapy

15 Situations You Might Want to Seek Couples Therapy For

Written by Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC, Psychotherapist & Licensed Addiction Counselor

couple sitting apart on couch, he's on phone while she watches tv, indicating they need couples therapy

If you’re feeling like you and your partner are stuck in a negative cycle, or the connection you once shared is fading, know that you’re not alone. Couples therapy can be a transformative tool to help you understand each other better, work through difficult issues, and reignite the spark in your relationship.

This article covers 15 major situations that can benefit strongly from seeking outside professional couples therapy or counseling.

We also cover some of the myths surrounding these situations though, as there’s so many misconceptions and misunderstandings about couples therapy out there.

The biggest myth of all is that seeking professional help means your relationship is failing.

On the contrary, seeking professional help when it’s needed is a testament to your commitment to building the healthiest, happiest partnership you can. Think of it as proactive maintenance for one of the most important aspects of your life.

And here’s the good news: the more you invest in the tools of couples therapy today, the greater the dividends you’ll reap in your relationship tomorrow.

Seeking professional help for your relationship isn't a sign of weakness – it's a testament to your commitment to building a stronger, healthier partnership.

close up couple holding hands and drinking coffee, demonstrating their closeness after getting couples counseling

1. Major Life Transitions

Even positive changes, like a new job, a move, or welcoming a baby, can disrupt a relationship’s rhythm and place significant stress on a couple.

Myth: “We should be able to handle this on our own.”

Reality: Big changes test even the strongest relationships. Therapy offers an objective perspective, helping you recognize normal stress responses, communicate your needs effectively, and feel less alone during a challenging time.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Constant bickering or withdrawal
  • Feeling unheard or unsupported by your partner
  • Increasing resentment or blame
  • Difficulty navigating new roles or responsibilities within the relationship

2. Loss of Intimacy & Connection

Sometimes, couples simply drift apart. The spark fades, and you begin to feel more like roommates than romantic partners.

Myth: “This is just what happens after being together for a long time.

Reality: Relationships take effort. Therapy helps you reconnect, rediscover shared passions, and prioritize emotional and physical intimacy.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Lack of affection, touch, or quality time together
  • No longer sharing thoughts, feelings, or dreams
  • Prioritizing other aspects of life (work, children, hobbies) over your relationship
  • Feeling lonely even when you’re together

3. Communication Breakdown

Feeling constantly at odds with your partner is exhausting. Communication difficulties can manifest as frequent arguments, feeling unheard, or avoiding important conversations.

Myth: “If we just talked more, this would get better.”

Reality: Communication is more than just talking. Therapy teaches couples effective listening skills, strategies for conflict resolution, and how to express vulnerable emotions in a way that fosters connection.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Arguments that escalate quickly or go in circles
  • Feeling constantly misunderstood or unheard
  • Avoiding difficult conversations out of fear
  • Resorting to passive-aggressiveness or the silent treatment

4. Medical or Emotional Trauma

Significant events like a serious illness, injury, or a mental health condition like depression, anxiety, or PTSD can profoundly impact both the individual experiencing the trauma and their partner.

Myth: “My partner should just know how to support me.”

Reality: Trauma impacts everyone differently. Therapy provides a safe space to process your experience, learn coping mechanisms, and communicate your needs to your partner so they can offer the right support.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Increased irritability, anger, or withdrawal
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares, or flashbacks
  • Changes in appetite or substance use
  • Feeling like your partner doesn’t understand or that the trauma is all you talk about

5. Infidelity & Trust Issues

Infidelity, whether an emotional affair or a physical betrayal, deals a devastating blow to a relationship.

Myth: “If we truly love each other, we should be able to move on without help.”

Reality: Infidelity shatters trust and requires dedicated work to rebuild. Therapy offers a structured environment to process emotions, understand the betrayal, and explore if and how a path to forgiveness is possible.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Difficulty moving past the betrayal
  • Obsessive thoughts or intrusive questions
  • Increased suspicion, controlling behavior, or jealousy
  • Struggling to feel emotionally close to your partner

Do you need a professional perspective on your relationship? We offer psychotherapy and counseling for adults and couples, families, and teens. Schedule an appointment with Cynthia or Taylor today, or book a free 15-minute consultation here if you have any questions.

6. Sexual Issues

Sexual compatibility is an important aspect of a healthy relationship. Differences in desire, past sexual trauma, or difficulty communicating intimately can significantly impact a couple’s connection.

Myth: “Great sex just happens naturally.”

Reality: Sexual satisfaction often requires open communication, exploration, and sometimes addressing deep-rooted issues. Therapy creates a safe environment to discuss desires, address insecurities, and build emotional intimacy, which strengthens physical connection.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Significant difference in sex drives
  • Feeling anxious, pressured, or unsatisfied during sex
  • Difficulty talking about sex with your partner
  • Sex-related trauma impacting your relationship

7. Substance Abuse

When one partner’s use of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medication becomes problematic, it strains the entire relationship.

Myth: “My partner just needs to have more willpower.”

Reality: Addiction is a complex disease. Therapy helps address the underlying causes, support the non-addicted partner, and develop healthy coping mechanisms for both.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Hiding or lying about usage
  • Changes in behavior, mood swings, or withdrawal
  • Neglecting responsibilities or relationships due to substance use
  • Feeling like you’re constantly covering for your partner or enabling their behavior

8. Differing Values & Life Goals

While minor differences are normal, major misalignments in your fundamental beliefs, long-term plans, or financial priorities can create serious fissures in a relationship.

Myth: “Love conquers all.”

Reality: Fundamental differences in values can lead to deep dissatisfaction. Therapy helps you identify your core needs, explore potential compromises, or respectfully accept that your paths may diverge.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Constant arguments about major life decisions (children, finances, careers)
  • Feeling like your partner doesn’t respect your beliefs
  • Fantasizing about a different life or future without compromise
  • Resentment building when one partner consistently sacrifices their goals

9. Blended Families

Merging families brings a unique set of complexities. Differences in parenting styles, relationships with ex-partners, and adjusting to stepchildren roles can create tension and resentment.

Myth: “Love for each other will make it all fall into place.”

Reality: Blended families need proactive effort. Therapy offers guidance on creating boundaries, navigating difficult conversations, and fostering a sense of unity in your new family.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Constant conflict about parenting decisions
  • Feeling like your partner always puts their children first
  • Difficulty adjusting to the step-parent role
  • Tension or rivalry between children

10. Strained Relationships

Extended family dynamics, work stress, or challenging friendships can put pressure on a couple’s relationship.

Myth: “These outside issues shouldn’t affect our relationship.”

Reality: External stressors can erode a couple’s support system. Therapy helps you identify how these challenges impact your bond and develop strategies to weather them together.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Taking out work frustrations on your partner
  • Feeling like dealing with family issues is your responsibility alone
  • Your partner prioritizing friends or family over spending time with you
  • Constantly arguing about issues outside of your relationship

Don't wait for a crisis. If your relationship is struggling, couples therapy can help you address challenges before they become overwhelming.

11. Grief & Loss

Coping with the death of a loved one, whether a family member, friend, or even a cherished pet, is a deeply emotional journey. Grief can manifest differently for each partner, leading to misunderstandings and feelings of isolation within the relationship.

Myth: “We should grieve in the same way.”

Reality: Grief is individual, and there is no right timeline. Therapy helps you understand each other’s grieving process, provide space for different emotions, and find ways to support one another through the pain.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Difficulty talking about the loss
  • Feeling unsupported by your partner in your grief
  • Anger or resentment towards each other
  • Grief impacting your daily functioning or well-being for an extended period

12. Parenting Styles

Disagreements on parenting are incredibly common, with conflicts arising over discipline, values, or expectations. These differences can lead to tension and undermine your united front as parents.

Myth: “We should have a natural instinct for parenting that always aligns.”

Reality: Parents bring their own upbringing and beliefs into child-rearing. Therapy creates a space to discuss your parenting philosophies, find compromises, and develop a consistent approach that works for your family.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Constantly arguing about child-related decisions
  • Undermining each other’s authority in front of the children
  • Feeling frustrated that your partner’s parenting isn’t “right”
  • Resentment building towards your partner over parenting disagreements

13. Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain impacts every aspect of a person’s life, including their relationships. When one partner experiences persistent pain, it changes routines, moods, and intimacy.

Myth: “My partner just needs to try harder to manage the pain.”

Reality: Therapy helps the partner with chronic pain communicate their experience and needs while fostering empathy and understanding in the other partner. It also supports developing coping strategies to handle the emotional impact of chronic pain as a couple.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Feeling unsupported or dismissed about your pain
  • Plans or social life constantly changing due to pain flare-ups
  • Guilt on either side regarding pain impacting the relationship
  • Difficulty maintaining physical or emotional intimacy

14. Mental Health

When one partner lives with a mental health condition like persistent anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, it affects the dynamic of the relationship.

Myth: “My love and support should be enough to help my partner get better.”

Reality: Therapy aids the partner with the mental health condition in expressing their struggles while supporting the other partner in understanding and responding effectively. It works in tandem with individual therapy.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Feeling like you’re constantly walking on eggshells
  • Taking on the role of caretaker over partner
  • Your partner’s mental health impacting your own well-being
  • Difficulty finding joy or normalcy in everyday life

15. Codependency

Codependent relationships involve unhealthy patterns where one or both partners lose their sense of self and rely excessively on the other for fulfillment.

Myth: “This level of closeness and reliance is a sign of true love.”

Reality: Codependency can create suffocating or manipulative dynamics. Therapy provides tools for developing healthy boundaries, fostering individual identities, and building a relationship based on mutual respect rather than dependence.

Signs to Watch Out For:

  • Difficulty making decisions without your partner’s input
  • Focusing excessively on your partner’s needs at the expense of your own
  • Feeling anxious or lost when not with your partner
  • Enabling unhealthy behaviors for fear of the relationship ending

Ready to Find Help? Here’s How:

Deciding to seek couples therapy is a courageous step towards building a healthier relationship. Here’s what you can do next:

Finding a Therapist Near You In Denver:

If you’re in Greater Denver, you can read more about our integrative psychotherapy services and see if they’re a good fit for you. Our center has the benefit of an integrative approach, so if you need medication management, ketamine therapy, hormonal support, or other holistic help you can receive it all under one roof.

Here’s other great options to find help near you. But remember, the best therapist is the one that feels right to you. If someone has the right credentials and great reviews, that’s encouraging, but finding a therapist is almost like finding another partner — the person that’s right for someone else isn’t necessarily right for you.

  • Referrals: Ask your doctor, trusted friends, or community resources for recommendations.
  • Online Directories: Search on websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy. These sites allow you to filter by location and specialty (couples, relationships, CBT, etc.) and also read reviews.
  • Insurance: Check with your insurance provider to see which therapists are in-network, then look for therapists who speak to you personally.
  • Self-Pay Options: Many therapists offer self-pay options with clear, upfront pricing. This can offer flexibility, increased privacy, and greater control over your care. More and more therapists (including us) are choosing this model, as it enables us to spend more time with clients and less time with insurance agents.

Questions to Ask During Consultations:

  • “What is your experience working with couples facing similar issues to ours?”
  • “What is your approach to therapy, and how does it specifically help couples?”
  • “What are your fees and availability?”

Allow Some Time to Find the Right Option

Last but not least, finding the right therapist can take time.

Don’t be discouraged if the first person isn’t the perfect fit, and don’t be afraid to switch at any point if you’re not comfortable. Trust your gut and keep searching for someone who makes you and your partner feel comfortable and understood.

Most importantly, remember that seeking help is a sign of strength and a powerful commitment to the happiness you and your partner deserve.

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia McKay, JD, MA, LAC, MFT, LISAC

Cynthia is a clinical psychotherapist, licensed addiction counselor, and our lead therapist at Ballen Medical & Wellness. She specializes in a myriad of treatment modalities ranging from general psychological concerns to relationship/marriage & family therapy, depression, anxiety, addiction, grief, pre & post-divorce issues, sexual abuse, co-occurring disorders, and trauma-informed systemic psychotherapy.

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