5 Signs you Might Need Couples Counseling

Most people tend to see couples counseling as an absolute last resort, when their relationship has deteriorated significantly. But couples have a better chance of resolving their conflicts and hurts if they seek help sooner than later. The longer you stay in crisis with your partner, the greater chance you will become emotionally distant, hurt each other through words and actions, or otherwise harm your bond. This article is intended to empower you to find guidance as soon as you need it, as opposed to waiting until things really get out of hand. If you resonate with any of the following signs, there's a good chance you could benefit greatly from couples counseling:


1 | There was a major betrayal

If you and your partner experienced a huge betrayal within the relationship, such as an affair (whether physical or emotional), financial infidelity, or another type of deception that has recently become known, I imagine this has shaken things up quite a bit. You may not even know how to proceed with this newfound information. Couples counseling can help you both process through the feelings of the betrayal and assist you both in deciding how to move forward. A professional can facilitate a conversation between you two that doesn't devolve into a screaming match or the silent treatment.

2 | There's more negativity than positivity

Dr. Gottman's "Magic Ratio," developed through a career of researching couples, posits that a couple that has a ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative interaction is most likely to remain together. However, if that ratio is thrown off, watch out! The more negativity you see, the less likely the relationship will survive long-term. Pay attention to the interactions you have with your partner over the next week or so. What's your ratio looking like? If you're noticing a fair amount of negative interactions without a great amount of positive interactions to balance it out, couples counseling may be an option for you to consider. 

3 | You're unable to communicate

Some couples simply don't know how to communicate with one another about emotionally-charged topics. This often occurs in two scenarios: 1) in couples where one or both partners has an avoidant style – meaning they prefer to disengage from connection completely when emotionally flooded, preferring to "zone out" with electronics, become immersed in work responsibilities, etc. or 2) in couples where one or both partners has an aggressive style – meaning they tend to use a loud volume, harsh tone and make accusations that make it almost impossible to have a rational conversation with this person. Couples counseling can help create a safe environment where both partners feel comfortable and empowered to communicate honestly and authentically with one another.

4 | You go in circles with issues

Are you in one of those relationships where you and your partner communicate, respect one another's opinions, and treat each other kindly, yet cannot find resolutions for certain issues? Maybe you're needing to make a big life choice such as whether to live in the city or the country, whether or not to have children, who will be the main earner, etc. Sometimes couples need a facilitator to have these tough conversations and finally find some clarity and closure. Couples counseling could be a great way for you guys to close the book on some of these nagging problems.

5 | You have different visions for the future

Over time, people change and evolve in many ways. This growth can have beneficial impacts on a couple, or can leave them feeling as though they've grown apart. If you and your partner have vastly different ideas about what the future should hold, this can make it difficult to envision a future together. Couples counseling can help you both clarify what you'd like for the future and if those dreams can be reconciled within the relationship.

It's common for couples to come up against challenges that seem insurmountable at the time. But if you and your partner love one another and want very much to make the relationship work, you can improve your chances of relationship success through therapy. Seeing a therapist can help you communicate vulnerably and effectively with your spouse, process through traumas that have impacted both of you and give you tools and resources to deepen your connection with one another. Leave any questions or thoughts in the comments below. As always, I'd love to hear from you. Thank you for reading and be well!

about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.


​Intimate Partner Violence Series: Part II – 7 Elements of Abuse Safety Planning

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of this, I’ve decided to develop an Intimate Partner Violence Series that is intended to equip individuals with the information necessary to 1) determine if they are in an abusive relationship, 2) develop a safety plan for while they are in the relationship, 3) seek support and resources to help them get out of the relationship and finally 4) identify signs of healthy relationships. This series is intended to be educational in nature and is not a substitute for seeking professional help. Please seek the help of a therapist in your area. Today’s post is Part Two of this series. If this is a topic that has special relevance for you, stay tuned for future posts.

Once you’ve identified abuse within your relationship, you might think “okay, now what?” Leaving an abusive relationship is incredibly difficult because you may be financially dependent on your abusive partner, you may be fearful of leaving due to retribution, you may love your abusive partner immensely and not want to leave, or many other factors making it challenging to pick up and take off. Whether you have decided to leave or whether you are looking to increase your safety while staying in an abusive relationship, you'll want to develop a safety plan for yourself. Here are 7 elements of abuse safety planning:


1 | Find a safe location

The first step of a safety plan is to find a safe location away from the abuser when you feel in danger of physical abuse. Although this may seem obvious, when experiencing abuse, one's levels of confusion and fear are so high, it's hard to know exactly what to do first. A safe place might be the cafe down the street or another room in the house (choose a room with no weapons and with a way to escape.)

2 | Keep a phone available

Keep a phone with you at all times. If you don't have access to one, or if your partner takes it away from you, know where the closest public phone is to your home.

3 | Call 911

If you feel you are in imminent danger, call the police immediately. If you are not in immediate danger, move down the steps of the safety plan.

4 | Utilize the Domestic Violence Hotline

The National Domestic Violence Hotline is an important resource to include in a safety plan. The phone hotline (1-800-799-7233) is a 24-hour a day free service and the live chat option on the website is available from 5 a.m. to midnight PST (also free.) Domestic violence advocates can help connect you to community resources (if that is something you’d like to take advantage of), can help you sort through your thoughts to make a decision about what to do next and can help you develop and execute a safety plan. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website also provides an abundance of useful information and resources for abuse survivors.

5 | Seek social support

A vital aspect of a safety plan is the phone numbers of a few friends, family members or neighbors who you trust to be able to help deliver you to safety in a dangerous situation with your partner. People on this list should be able to help drive you, house you or feed you temporarily if you feel you are at risk. If you need a place to stay or just someone to talk to, give the people on your list a call for support. The people who choose for your safety plan should be local and willing to help you when you need it.

6 | Put together an overnight bag

It's important to be prepared for the next potential act of violence. If you are currently living with your partner and not ready to leave the relationship, it's essential that you have a "get away" bag with cash, some clothes, and an extra car key. You can also make a habit of backing your car into the driveway for a quicker escape.

7 | Inform professionals

Any care professionals who you work with (i.e. a therapist, your doctor, etc.) that you trust should be included toward the end of your safety plan as individuals to keep in the loop of recent developments. Although most professionals maintain boundaries around their out-of-office hours and are typically not available for crisis management, you still want them to be informed of updates. Your therapist or other care professional may be able to accommodate an earlier appointment to help you decide on your next step.

Keep in mind, everyone’s situation is unique and each safety plan is tailored to the individual’s circumstances and needs. This post outlines elements that are generally included in safety plan, but is not an exhaustive list. If you'd like to learn more about safety planning, I suggest you visit this linkIf you feel that you are in imminent danger, please seek help immediately, by calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or by calling 911. If you are not in immediate danger, but would like to find someone to talk to, you can find a therapist at PsychologyToday.com or if you are in the Los Angeles area, feel free to contact me for therapy. I hope you found today’s post informative. Please leave a comment below if there’s anything you’d like to add or ask. Stay posted for future articles in this series. Be safe and be well.

about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.