Disagreements and other tense moments 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 counsellor 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.

Instead of snapping over “little” things or yelling extreme statements like, “You never listen to me!” (which are likely to make the other person shut down), a couples therapist can teach partners how to fight fairly so each person feels heard.

“We’re able to point out the current challenges to communicating effectively, then help guide clients to learn the language and tools they need to engage in these talks without emotionally harming each other,” Wentzler says. That way, problems are more likely to be solved—and feelings are less likely to be hurt.

4. One or both partners feel unappreciated.

In long-term relationships, it can be easy to overlook the little things, like going on spontaneous dates or even just saying “I love you.” But getting into the habit of neglecting these sweet moments can cause emotional distance.

“Feeling like you’re not seen, not heard, by your partner—those are early warning signs that [people in the] relationship are starting to drift apart,” Amanda Craig, PhD, LMFT, author of Who Are You and What Have You Done with My Kid?, tells SELF. This lack of appreciation can inspire people to seek out a therapist, who can suggest ways to reconnect, Dr. Craig says.

One simple strategy she uses, for example, is challenging couples to be more intentional about maintaining eye contact and smiling—while chatting over dinner, say.

She also encourages people to ask their partner how their day was (and genuinely listen to the answer), or even just greet them with a hug when they come home from work. “It’s these basic things that so many people take for granted, lose track of, and need a little help getting back into,” Craig says.

5. There’s no excitement.

Another common pattern in long-term relationships is getting a little too comfortable—to the point where the dynamic becomes predictable and maybe boring. In that case, a professional can help by suggesting ways to make things feel a little more exciting again, Shavon Gaddy, LCSW, an AASECT-certified sex therapist in New York City, tells SELF.

Some folks, Gaddy says, might discover that they want to spice up their sex life.

Other potential ways to add novelty include sharing a new hobby or getting dressed up for monthly date nights, instead of ordering takeout and eating it on the couch. And even if a couple isn’t quite sure what, exactly, they’re missing, talking to a therapist can help them figure it out, Gaddy adds.

6. Disagreements about money are causing tension.

“Financial issues can be a tremendous stressor on a relationship on multiple levels,” Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a New York City-based psychologist, tells SELF. Of course, “if a couple can’t afford to meet basic needs [like getting food on the table], it can lead to a lack of safety and more strain,” Dr Romanoff says. Even in financially stable relationships, differences in salaries and spending (or saving) habits can also cause tension, she adds.

While this might sound like a job for a financial advisor, a couples therapist can help too. For one, they can make potentially awkward conversations about money easier by encouraging more constructive (and kinder) language, Dr. Romanoff explains.

They can also help people get to the root of why talking about spending too much (or little) is such a challenge, she says. Maybe money was a hush-hush topic in one partner’s childhood, for instance, or personal insecurities (like feeling ashamed about credit card debt) are getting in the way of honest communication.

“It’s helpful to explore how couples discuss their finances and what barriers they have to talking about money openly,” Dr. Romanoff says. Because to resolve any relationship problem, you first need a solid foundation of trust, as well as some healthy communication skills, she adds.

7. There’s a lack of boundaries with overbearing in-laws (or other family members).

Setting boundaries with family can be really difficult—but sometimes necessary to protect a relationship. Maybe the in-laws who offered to help take care of a couple’s newborn still show up unannounced years later. Or perhaps one partner won’t stand up to their grandma who hurls passive-aggressive jabs about how “disorganized” or “poorly decorated” the house is.

These types of issues commonly inspire couples to seek therapy together, Gayane Aramyan, LMFT, a Los Angeles–based therapist specializing in relationships, tells SELF.

In her own practice, Aramyan says she usually focuses on helping folks find a middle ground—like limiting family visits to once a month (or every other week) instead of weekly, or being more supportive when a relative crosses a line. “It’s really about finding that happy medium and discovering ways that your partner can make you feel more comfortable,” Aramyan says.

When to consider couples therapy

It’s not right for every couple, according to many of the experts we spoke with, and therapy only works when both parties are willing to give it a solid effort. But if you’re struggling with a specific concern, like craving deeper intimacy or needing more emotional support during a stressful time, a couples therapist is trained to help.

And even if there isn’t a major problem or crisis at the moment, a few sessions here and there can strengthen your connection and prevent serious misunderstandings and conflicts down the road, Bradden adds.

Realistically though, not everyone has the time, money, or resources to see a pro whenever an issue bubbles up. If you’re on the fence, here’s one telltale sign that therapy might be a real game changer for your relationship: repeating the same argument over and over.

This, Wentzler says, can indicate that one or both people feel misunderstood, and improving communication skills could make a huge difference.

Another good indicator is if either or both of you have been lying or keeping secrets about something serious (like cheating, say, or debt). “These betrayals can cause serious and lasting harm, and those wounds are not easy to heal without expert support,” Wentzler adds.

Ultimately, the choice is yours, but there’s no need to feel ashamed if you’re considering this route. Fighting for a relationship that’s worth it takes a lot of effort—and sometimes a professional in your corner.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.