About the author: Louis Venter Founder, Couples Help is passionate about helping couples in a vulnerable space to find good professional help and to experience love and connection again in their relationship.
You may feel that your current relationship is healthy, and indeed the idea of even entering couples’ therapy at all may be insulting to one or more parties within a relationship.
The truth, however, is that couples may be advised to seek therapy before they feel they “need” to, and that even so-called healthy relationships may benefit from couples’ counselling long before the stresses and strains begin to fully manifest themselves. Many couples arguably don’t have an objective view as to whether their relationship is “healthy”, and couples counselling can still have a positive impact even before any partnership hits any crisis point.
Here are some of the ways where even healthy relationships may begin to show signs of strain, and why couples counselling may still have a vital role to play.
Couples unable to articulate the problem
This may be the first warning sign for two parties in a “healthy” relationship – the general feeling that something is wrong, but they don’t know what to do for the best. Even if you don’t feel like your relationship has any perceived problem, a course of couples’ therapy may be the key to identifying the problem in the first place. It may be that one person in the couple has unknown feelings of resentment towards the other, but they don’t know why. Or it may be that a recent change in your relationship dynamic (a change of job, moving home, an illness) has affected both of you.
Communication/emotional intimacy has diminished or broken down
Relationships may have broken down, or couples may have in fact grown apart without knowing it. Sometimes simple facts of life such as conflicting work schedules, or a relationship’s longevity can lead to cracks appearing between a couple which may not seem immediately evident. Even healthy relationships can have problems with emotional intimacy or emotional articulacy as a result of internal or external factors.
Couples therapy can help resolve any communications issues, and an initial course of treatment may reveal some issues which you didn’t realise existed.
Frequent arguments or inability to deal with conflict
Argument can be a perfectly healthy component of a relationship, but it can also be a manifestation of future problems or potential breakdowns. It’s possible that one partner in the couple does not deal with anger in the right way, perhaps becoming passive aggressive, or lashing out unnecessarily. If these arguments are also increasing in frequency, then this could be a sign of something more serious which couples therapy can be used to treat.
Breakdown of trust
A breakdown of trust can sometimes cause ruptures in a relationship, but these may not be evident. People often associate a breakdown of trust in a relationship with factors such as infidelity, an emotional affair, or some big dark secret which risks tearing a couple apart. But healthy relationships can suffer from trust issues of their own which can, if unchecked, grow worse over time.
In even seemingly healthy relationships, trust issues can form over conflicts as seemingly trivial as arguments about money, or smaller arguments where one partner may feel like the other doesn’t trust them.
A trauma in your immediate past
Some relationships can find themselves tested by external shocks or traumas which can cause unforeseen damage to a relationship. It could be a health crisis, the death of a loved one, or even a traumatic accident. Couples counselling might not be the most obvious route for a couple who might think of themselves as strong, or able to weather most crises.
However, couples’ therapy might be worthwhile in the aftermath of a traumatic event and can help to minimise any future problems which may develop in your relationship.