The Biggest Relationship Problems Couples Therapists See Over and Over Again

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Disagreements and other tense moments (ahem, biting your partner’s head off) are normal in healthy relationships. Rough patches, too, are par for the course, especially if you’ve been together for a long time. But what kinds of issues warrant a visit to a couples therapist?

The truth is, all types of relationships can get something out of therapy, Svea Wentzler, MA, a pre-licensed marriage and family therapist at A Better Life Therapy in Philadelphia, tells SELF. “It’s a safe and private place to explore what is and isn’t working,” Wentzler says. Plus, “it can be hard to hear feedback from your partners or friends, and a third-party expert can point out patterns you may not even be aware of,” she adds.

Besides the whole “saving a dying relationship” cliché, there are plenty of other situations that can lead people to call in a pro. Here, seven couples therapists share a common issue they see in their sessions.

1. The trust is gone.

It’s probably no surprise that losing trust is a biggie. “Infidelity has been the most common issue I’ve worked with,” Alyssa Calderon, LMFT, a couples counselor at North Brooklyn Marriage and Family Therapy in New York City, tells SELF. “Understandably, people panic after learning about a physical or emotional betrayal and act quickly to secure a therapist to get their relationship ‘back on track,’” Calderon says.

There’s no quick fix for rebuilding that sense of security (and it’s not always possible), but joint therapy can allow a couple to delve into the underlying issues that led to the betrayal in a judgment-free, safe environment, Calderon says. This can also help them determine if moving forward together is truly worth it. “Infidelity doesn’t have to end in a breakup,” she adds. “But it usually creates a distrust or lack of confidence that should be addressed.”

2. A big life change, like getting married or starting a family, is on the horizon.

Again, therapy isn’t just for troubled relationships on the brink of collapse. Another less dire yet completely valid reason to book some sessions: wanting to work through a major life change that’s about to happen, Vanessa Bradden, LMFT, owner of Lakeview Therapy Group in Chicago, tells SELF.

“I see a lot of people becoming first-time parents, for example, who want to navigate [preparing for] young children because they understand how complex and challenging that can be on the relationship,” Bradden says. Other transitions a couples therapist can help with include moving in together, getting married, or becoming empty nesters. Professional guidance can make these important but also intimidating milestones feel a little more manageable, Bradden adds.

3. The arguments aren’t exactly productive.

“It’s normal to fight in relationships,” Wentzler says. However, there are right (and wrong) ways to do it—that is, if the goal is to fix the problem while staying respectful. “When it comes to conflict, people really struggle with how to resolve it constructively,” Wentzler adds. Specifically, she notes that many couples avoid addressing their underlying issues, which can lead to dissatisfaction, distrust, and more screaming matches.


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