You don’t need a relationship therapist for everything, but when you and your partner are struggling to communicate, a couples therapist can give you some much-needed tools. Of course, it can be hard to know if and when seeking couples therapy is the right move — especially for queer couples. Since LGBTQ+ people have historically been underrepresented in science, literature, and media, it can be difficult for queer couples to know if they’re experiencing normal relationship stress or something bigger.
Throughout my years working as a sex and relationship therapist, I’ve pinpointed signs that you and your partner might need help from a professional. Here are seven signs that it might be time for couples therapy.
1. You’re stuck in an “infinity fight.”
Fighting with your partner isn’t always a bad thing. We all communicate differently, and for many of us, a heated (but respectful) argument is the easiest path toward conflict resolution. That said, it isn’t healthy to fight every day — especially when that fight is always about the same thing. If you and your partner fight about the same issue every time it pops up and nothing seems to change afterwards, you’re in what I call an “infinity fight.”
You could be fighting about anything — friends, family, sex, chores — but if it’s not getting better, then it’s probably just getting worse. It’s okay if you two can’t work it out on your own. That’s what therapy is for!
2. You think there’s room for improvement, but you don’t know where to start.
Couples therapy isn’t only for partners who are at their wits’ end. If you see a problem forming and want to get ahead of it, couples therapy might be right for your relationship.
In many cases, counseling is even more effective if you do it before the tears are flowing and tempers are running hot. There are a million different ways that two people can spark conflict with each other — and there’s no rule book that can tell you how to fix them all — so there’s no shame in seeking professional advice.
3. Being with your partner feels like a chore.
This is one of the saddest things I see as a therapist. Two people are madly in love, but unresolved gripes, conflicts, or complaints suck the life out of them over time.
If it feels like being with your partner is a chore — i.e., you’d rather capitulate than argue with them, their requests always feel like a burden, you try to avoid emotional or physical connection, etc. — then something is clearly wrong.
Likewise, if you feel like your partner is treating you that way no matter what you do, then it’s time to call in some assistance. Couples therapy can help you uncover the origin of those feelings and guide you back to a healthy and happy relationship.
4. Your sex life is struggling.
I often struggle to get clients to open up about sex. Whether they’re unsatisfied, afraid to express their desires, or experiencing shifts in libido, the last thing they want to do is talk to their partner about it.
They might be scared of hurting each other’s feelings or just flat-out uncomfortable talking about sex, so they wait to address it until they can hardly tolerate sex. In other cases, they may have perfect sexual communication but still feel unable to improve. A therapist can help you find out why you’re sexually unsatisfied and get back to sexual bliss with your partner.
5. You have trust issues.
I can tell you right now that a lack of trust will lead to bigger and badder problems in no time. It could be that you’ve been hurt before and feel suspicious, or it could be that your partner’s words or actions are inconsiderate.
We all want to know the truth and we all want to be able to trust our loved ones, but it’s rarely that simple. A therapist can help both of you communicate more honestly with each other. They can also help you find out if that mistrust is coming from you, your partner, or both.
6. You and/or your partner are working through trauma.
I know it feels obvious to seek professional help after experiencing trauma, but few people think to involve their partners in that work. If you’ve been through trauma together, such as a car accident or loss of a child, then you need to heal together.
If one of you has been through something traumatic, it’s normal for the other partner to want to help — even if they don’t know how. It’s natural for all of us to want to be there for those we love. A therapist can help you heal, but they can also teach your partner how to be there for you and vice versa.
7. You and your partner have fundamental differences.
We may not mind our partner’s differences at first. That difference could be a hobby, a political view, religious difference, or any other value or interest you don’t share.
Over time, these differences can turn into points of contention, resentment, or arguments. You probably can’t change that aspect of them, but a therapist can help you both move forward in a healthy way.
Remember: Couples therapy isn’t a last resort.
As the stigma surrounding mental health fades away, therapy is becoming more and more common. You don’t have to wait for an extreme problem to try it. Try a few therapists and see what feels right. Hopefully, you and your partner will start a journey towards a better, stronger relationship. That said, therapy isn’t a fix-all solution for every problem. Sometimes two people simply aren’t compatible — and that’s okay! Therapy can help you discover what steps to take for a healthier life, whether that’s together or apart.