If You're Having This Argument, See a Couples Therapist, Experts Say
This kind of fight is a surefire sign it's time to get a professional involved.
Couples therapy is too often thought of as a last resort or a punishment, but relationship experts say there are plenty of reasons couples should seek outside help. From pre-marital counseling to trying to save a marriage from divorce and all the little bumps in-between, couples therapy can be a crucial part of maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. But when is the right time for you to seek professional guidance? While it's normal for couples to have disagreements here and there, experts say there's one kind of fight that's a clear signal a pair should sign up for a therapy session. Keep reading to find out if you and your partner are having this argument, and for more warning signs, If You and Your Partner Can't Agree on This, It's Time to Break Up.
If you're having the same fight over and over again, it's time to see a couples therapist.
Fights are often resolvable, but it's hard to repeatedly smooth over the damage done by a recurring fight, where each person tears at an existing wound. "If you keep having the same argument over and over, it's time to seek assistance," says Lesli Doraes, a marriage coach for men and couples consultant. She notes that it can be hard to identify and reach a consensus on when a relationship has reached a point where couples therapy is needed. However, if you're having the same fight constantly, it's a surefire sign you should seek counseling. Couples therapy can help you extinguish the issue that is causing a recurring argument by finally getting to the bottom of it.
Marriage and family therapist Michael Ceely, LMFT, agrees that unresolved arguments are a good reason to check out couples therapy, especially if the pair disagrees on fundamental issues. "Some couples learn to compromise and move through these fundamental issues in an acceptable way that doesn't create resentment," he says. "The couples that aren't able to compromise on these fundamental issues are the ones who are prime candidates for couples therapy." And for more relationship problems, If Your Partner Is Asking You This One Question, They Could Be Cheating.
There are some common arguments that couples tend to have repeatedly.
The recurring fight you have in a relationship could be something small that's been blown out of proportion or something that indicates a deeper rift between the pair. Ceely says some of the arguments that typically go unresolved for too long and tend to pop up again and again include disagreements on money, extended family, and having or raising kids.
Marriage and family therapist and author Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, LMFT, says other fights that tend to be common include those surrounding an affair, one partner disappearing for extended periods of time, or addictions. And for more on infidelity, This Is the Age When Married Men Are Most Likely to Cheat.
Some fighting is healthy for couples, but fighting about the same thing consistently is not.
"There's a myth that healthy couples should agree on everything. This myth creates unrealistic expectations," says Ceely. "It's normal for couples to argue and disagree. It's when the arguments go around in circles without any resolution that it's a problem."
Couples psychologist Sarah Rattray, PhD, notes that there are productive ways to have disagreements. "Every couple can disagree in ways that don't hurt each other, and disagreements can be repaired afterward with new insights and closeness," she says. However, when a couple feels "unable to repair soon and completely," it's time to bring in a professional to help the couple overcome whatever hump has been holding them back from putting this recurring fight to rest. And for more useful information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Seeing a therapist won't solve everything, but it'll give a couple the necessary tools.
While many couples seek therapy thinking it will be a miracle salve, this isn't always the case. A therapist may be an integral part of the couple's reconnection, but the pair will have to do some work themselves. "The purpose of couples therapy is not to have the therapist solve problems directly. Rather, it's to help the couple learn communication skills and the art of compromise," Ceely explains.
"Couples counseling can be very beneficial to those who want to manage conflict communications more effectively, feel more heard and understood, find a resolution to an unsolved issue, rebuild trust, and get back to how things were when they first met—fun, exciting, and happy," says couples counselor Meagan Prost, LPCC-S. "While family and close friends are a wonderful support system, many are not able to provide an unbiased experience for what an individual or couple is going through. Couples therapy provides a safe space to share each person's perspective, express empathy and validation, identify triggers, and make a plan of action—together." And for more signs you might need to see professional, If Your Partner Is Using These 2 Words, You May Be Headed for a Breakup.