How Does Couples Therapy Work?

Updated September 04, 2018

Why Do Couples Have Disagreements, and How Are They Solved?

Every couple goes through highs and lows in their relationships, from small-scale scenarios to larger issues overshadowing each step of the relationship. According to marriage and family counselors, couples often have disagreements that go unresolved. In fact, approximately 70 percent or arguments go unresolved. This could mean that some of the arguments have the same patterns, causes, and results.

What causes tensions in relationships? According to the and, the top topics of arguments for couples include: free time (and where to eat and which movies to watch), money, sharing housework, physical intimacy, extended family obligations and issues, children, career, snoring and other sleeping habits, ex-spouses and ex-girlfriends and -boyfriends - and the classic - leaving the toilet seat up. In some cases, couples could argue about large-scale issues, such as infidelity.


If the following steps just do not work for your particular situation, seeking couples therapy could be a valuable route for your relationship. Couples therapy can provide answers to couples' most pressing questions and help them discover their individual triggers and other aspects. When couples have disagreements, some solutions include the following:

Shift your thought process.

Instead of focusing on fighting less, when disagreements arise, don't be afraid to communicate with your partner. Listen and don't just hear what he or she has to say. While in the heat of the moment, it could be challenging to be objective, but learning how to discuss emotions, thoughts and issues is a good foundation to resolve the issues at hand.

Know your issues.

This step goes hand in hand with changing your thought processes. Instead of duking it out, sit down and discuss if you both see any recurring patterns in disagreements. Have you been stressed out about monthly bills? Do you have disagreements in how to parent your children? Are you feeling overwhelmed with other family obligations? Whatever the issue, talk to your partner, so you know where you both stand on key issues within your household.

Don't blow the issues out of proportion.

It could be difficult to not make a mountain out of a molehill. When a disagreement arises, think about the current situation and its underlying issues. Don't grasp at straws and provide irrelevant information to cause a more massive fight. Be objective and try to not use guilt trips and bring up past arguments or infractions within the relationship. Refrain from saying, "You always do this" or "This happened every time before."

Agreeing could start a discussion.

While just agreeing for the sake of avoiding an argument isn't healthy behavior in many cases, agreeing to discuss a particular issue can help you solve issues within your relationship. Be gentle with your words and body language and present a situation in such a way that your partner will not be offended. For example, if a couple's daughter is getting ready to begin kindergarten in a year, and the wife wants to homeschool her, but the husband wants to enroll her in public schools, then having a discussion could help them work through the issue. The husband could say, "I know we both value education in our own lives and want what is best for our child. We both agree on that. Let's talk about some next steps to research education options in our area."


What's behind the scenes of the argument?

Assess your values, thoughts, beliefs and other integral parts of yourself. Do they match up with your partner's, or do they vary? A partner could feel less in control, which starts an argument about why he or she was so demanding when asking a partner to take out the garbage. They could be seeking some sort of control, even in minimal forms. Try to see the argument from the other person's perspective.

Agree to disagree - and accept that.

Couples will not see eye to eye on everything. Learn to accept that and move past previous arguments. Discussing pros and cons and identifying trigger issues can help couples better compromise, which in turns makes them happier as individuals and as a couple.

How Does Couples Therapy Work?

Couples therapy could help couples through the above steps and more. According to Psychology Today, for couples therapy to work, both individuals must be committed to improving their relationship, while looking inwardly at their own individual strengths and weaknesses. Knowing their traits and habits that make their partner tick could have a positive effect on making personal and relationship changes. Couples therapy isn't meant for one partner to unload anger, resentment and other damaging behaviors toward his or her partner. It's about unlocking solutions based on love, dedication and more.

A couples therapist looks at the ins and out of the couple's relationship and gives the couple insight into their shared strengths and weaknesses, as well as their individual ones. The couples therapist acts as a neutral mediator and gives advice to both partners. He or she may promote more two-way communication, create more positive ways of interacting and thinking and different ways the couple can show their love and support for each other.

Benefits of Couples Therapy

While couples therapy may not help everyone in every situation, many people express their love for couples therapy and methods. Some benefits of couple therapy include the following:

High Levels of Satisfaction

During the couples therapy sessions and afterward, couples express higher levels of patient satisfaction and overall happiness. According to a study conducted by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, 97 percent of couples surveyed said they received the help they needed. They said their couples therapists gave them resources they needed to make more effective decisions about their relationships. Plus, their overall mental and physical health improved, as well as work performance.


It Doesn't Take Much Time

Usually, a couples therapist has seen and heard it all, from the smallest problems to the most pressing issues in relationships. When couples attend joint sessions, it could take few sessions to resolve issues, as couples therapists have various methods. Attempting to solve issues yourselves could take more time, so visiting a licensed professional will save time.

You Will Know The Answers

Sometimes, couples therapy will show you that you are meant to be with your partner. Other times, it could show that your relationship isn't what either of you wants, which leads to separation and divorce. Regardless, couples therapy leads to answered questions and less "What If"s.

Couples Therapy Techniques

Many couples therapists center their practices and sessions on communication for couples. Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) works for many couples. The International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy defines EFT as "structured approach to couples therapy formulated in the 1980s and has developed alongside the science on adult attachment and bonding to expand our understanding of what is happening in couple relationships and to guide therapists" (ICEEFT). EFT works to help couples assess and reorganize their emotional responses, interactions, and bonds. The therapy technique outlines interventions and plans to help couples move forward.

Other techniques include:

  • Gottmann Method: Helps couples increase their overall closeness, respect, and affection through "love maps."
  • Narrative Therapy: Couples externally talk about their internal concerns, which can then be viewed from multiple and objective angles.
  • Positive Psychology: Therapists use this method to take about positive aspects of individual and relationships to induce happiness.
  • Imago Relationship Therapy: This is the combination of behavioral and spiritual techniques that pose questions to couples, such as "Why did you choose your partner?"

Will Couples Therapy Work For Me and My Partner?

Success or failure depends on how you and your partner look at couples therapy techniques and exercises. If one or both scoff at the idea and appear bored and distant during therapy sessions, then the couples therapy will not work. Both parents have to reach acceptable at some point, either before therapy or during the process. In addition, both of you must want to change your behaviors and respond well to your couples therapist and his or her sessions. Also, it depends greatly on the level of your marital problems. Seeking help early in the disagreement phase could establish your relationship's ground rules and prevent several issues down the road. It could also be a good idea to sign up for premarital counseling if you are engaged or thinking about marriage.

If your partner refuses to go to a couples therapy session with you, you may consider going to individual therapy to sort out issues and learn healthy coping mechanisms and solutions. Try some exercises at home to begin to sort out any issues. Have dinner together or go see a movie. Sit down and talk. Try to discuss any issues you have before bed. Be honest with each other. Care about their needs, but place them on the pedestal next to yours and not above you.

Find a couples therapist online or near you if you want to take the reins and solve your relationship's issues from their foundation. A licensed therapist will help you not just put Band-Aid fixes on problems but will provide long-lasting solutions that will aid in your decision-making process, no matter the outcome of the relationship in the long run.


^ Does Couples Therapy Work? Keys to Success. Jennifer Kunst, Ph.D. Psychology Today. Written March 7, 2012. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ Why Couples Fight: The Top 5 Issues. Science of People. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ 12 Things Most Couples Argue About and Ways to Avoid It. Melanie Fitzpatrick. AllWomensTalk. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ Does Marriage Counseling Work? 8 Surprising Statistics & Facts. Racheal Tasker. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ Couples Therapy: 6 Exercises You Can Try at Home. Michael Griswold. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ What is EFT? International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. Accessed March 23, 2017.

^ 9 Best Couples Counseling Techniques and Why You Should Try Them. Racheal Tasker. Accessed March 23, 2017.

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