Posted: Feb 11, 2014 7:00 AM
Couples therapy isn't only for couples who have nowhere else to turn. Whether you've noticed you and your husband have been arguing more, feel disconnected from each other or are having a hard time getting on the same page, visiting a therapist can help get your marriage back on track.

Watch out for relationship red flags

Dr. Tecsia Evans, a clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay area, works at Kaiser Permanente with an expertise in couples therapy. She provided five marriage red flags that can signal a place in a marriage that could benefit from couples counseling.

  1. Poor communication: Feeling like you and your partner engage in unhealthy communication often (e.g., not listening to one another, interrupting when the other speaks, use of yelling or threats, not sharing concerns openly, lack of respect, etc.)

  2. Lack of closeness: Not spending quality time with your partner and lacking intimacy for over a month.

  3. Lack of trust and respect: Feeling like you are not respected, that you cannot depend on your partner or that he or she is not truthful.

  4. Not a team: When issues arise, not working together as a team to problem solve and resolve the matter, instead focusing energy on blaming (who is right or who is wrong) or being resentful.

  5. Focusing too much on the past and not enough on the present: Not being able to forgive or be forgiven for past mistakes that often underline arguments.

Couples therapy can strengthen marriage bonds

Couples can benefit from the impartial presence of a marriage counselor. A professional therapist can help couples get through communication issues and learn methods for communicating that make both partners feel heard and valued in the relationship. Remember that a couple needn't see all — or any — of the red relationship flags before seeking out a therapist. Couples counseling can happen premaritally or at any time during a marriage, even if couples feel like their relationship is in a strong place.

Consider counseling tune-ups

Dr. Evans stresses that working on a marriage is a continued action, but that ongoing counseling isn't always necessary.

Counseling isn't a temporary fix, but it doesn't have to be an indefinite appointment on your calendar. Couples therapy is a place where you can find, or rediscover, tools that you'll use within your marriage. Those tools, once learned, aren't an endgame. There may be times in your marriage when the things you worked through in couples therapy come to the surface again, and the tools you thought you had firmly in hand can require resharpening. Dr. Evans stresses that working on a marriage is a continued action, but that ongoing counseling isn't always necessary. She says, "If the couple is actively and effectively working on problem areas in their relationship and improvements are being made, then I would encourage the couple to seek counseling as needed rather than it being on an ongoing basis."

The bottom line^ Dr. Evans points out the greatest benefit of couples therapy. She says, "Couples are provided a safe and mutual place where they can be completely honest with one another while a professional guides their dialogue in a way that effectively helps them resolve conflict and strengthen their relationship."

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