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 III – Resources to Escape from Violence

Last month (in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month) I 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 relationshipsThis 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 Three of this series. If this is a topic that has special relevance for you, stay tuned for future posts.

Leaving a relationship where you’re experiencing domestic violence is an incredibly challenging decision to make. It can also be an overwhelming task, and you may not know where to start. You may be thinking “where will I live?” “where will I work?” “who will help me?” and many other questions. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts in this series, a common component of an abusive relationship is the slow erosion of your support system over time, making it much harder to reach out to others for assistance. In this post is a list of 12 free (or low-cost) resources you can take advantage of for support in housing, financial, legal, mental health and social support:


Housing Support:

1 | DomesticShelters.org

This is a website that is like Google for emergency domestic violence shelters. All you have to do is enter your zip code into the search bar and you’ll come up with a number of results for shelters in your area. The next step at that point would be to call various shelters and see which ones have openings.

2 | YWCA Glendale Domestic Violence Program

This program includes a 24-hour crisis hotline at 888-999-7511, education and outreach about domestic violence and a 45-day emergency shelter (which includes comprehensive services: food, housing, counseling, social services, legal advocacy, case management, housing assistance, employment, education, healthcare and childcare.) All services are free and available in English, Spanish and Armenian.

Financial Support:

3 | Office for Victims of Crime

The Victims of Crime Act (of 1984) allocates federal funds to victims of crime to compensate for crime-related expenses such as medical costs, mental health counseling, funeral and burial costs and lost wages or loss of support. The method for applying for these benefits vary from state-to-state, so click here for a U.S. map. You can click on your state to receive more information about how to apply for benefits.

4 | The California Victim Compensation Board

As mentioned above, this is the Victims of Crime Act Compensation Board specific to the state of California. Click here for more information.

Legal Support:

5 | FindLaw.com

If you need to file a restraining order (also called a protective order) against your abusive partner, you can learn more about how to do this at this link. This website is also a directory for lawyers, if you need to find legal counsel.

6 | WomensLaw.org

This website provides plain language legal information regarding federal, state and tribal laws regarding domestic abuse. The mission of the site is to empower women to know their rights within a relationship so that they can better advocate for themselves.

The site also provides detailed instructions for how to ensure that you can safely browse and access necessary information about domestic violence online without your partner finding out about it. Tips include how to clear your browser history and make sure your research is not traceable by your abuser.

Mental Health Support:

7 | Open Path Psychotherapy Collective

If you’re considering seeking individual psychotherapy, Open Path as a nationwide non-profit organization that connects clients with private practice therapists who charge $30 - $50 per session. Membership is a one-time fee of $49. If you are located in the Los Angeles area, I also provide sessions at a reduced rate on a limited basis.

8 | Psychology Today Groups

If you’re considering finding a support group to heal, be empowered and connect with other domestic violence survivors, Psychology Today Groups is a nationwide resource for discovering therapists facilitating support groups in your area. Groups are also typically more cost-effective than individual counseling.

Social Support:

9 | Domestic Violence Facebook Groups

Because domestic violence resources vary from region to region, it can be helpful to receive support and guidance from people in your area who’ve gone through a similar situation and have escaped to safety. Once way to easily connect with individuals in your area is to utilize Facebook groups such as:

More Resources:

10 | California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

The Partnership is a coalition of advocates, organizations and allied groups united in the common goal to end domestic violence in California. Their website provides a free resource map of domestic violence organizations, sorted by region. The map lists 28 organizations in the Los Angeles area alone.

Further Reading:

11 | Domestic Violence: Finding Safety and Support Handbook

The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence provides a free PDF download of a booklet with 88 pages of useful information about what domestic violence is, how to create a safety plan, information about police and the courts and public resources available to survivors of domestic violence. Some of the information is state-specific to New York, but much of it is relevant to those who are not residents of New York.

12 | Breaking the Silence: A Handbook for Victims of Domestic Violence

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services provides a free PDF download of a 40-page booklet that provides detailed information about domestic violence relationship dynamics, safety-planning, resources and legal recourse. Again, some of the information is state-specific to Nebraska, but still a valuable resource to download and read for those who do not reside in Nebraska.

Although this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a good start to begin taking advantage of free resources that are available to you. If 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 the last article 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.