Addressing your relationship problems and challenges can help improve your communication skills, increase your commitment, and strengthen your bond with your partner. There are many benefits of couples therapy, and it’s been proven effective. According to research, 70% of couples say therapy positively impacted their relationship. Still, too often, partners ignore major issues, and problems escalate. Deciding to go to therapy is brave — and smart — and knowing what couples therapy topics to focus on once you’re there can make your time and effort pay off.
Couples counseling offers a roadmap for relationships as you build a solid foundation and develop a deeper connection that can withstand the tests of time. It provides a safe space and guidance for you and your partner to have productive discussions with a neutral party.
From learning how to communicate effectively to understanding family dynamics, focusing on the right couples counseling techniques and topics can help you get the most out of your sessions. Learning what things to talk about in couples therapy is the first step.
1. Communication Patterns
Every relationship has “those” issues — the triggers constantly argued about or fought over but never solved. Identifying unhealthy communication patterns can be one of the best topics to discuss in couples therapy.
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The benefit: Addressing relationship problems fueled by ineffective communication can help you break negative habits and patterns. You can learn more productive communication exercises for couples by examining how you communicate with your couples therapist.
2. Emotional Intimacy
The safety of a therapy session makes it a comfortable place to be emotionally intimate and vulnerable. You can address emotional wounds, past traumas, or trust issues that may negatively impact your relationship there.
The benefit: Exploring intimate topics with your therapist helps partners better understand each other’s emotional needs to foster more profound connections.
“It is fairly easy for partners to take offense to a partner’s share of intimate feelings and emotions. A couple’s therapist can help in generating a setting that allows for both partners to openly share with validation, support, and encouragement.”– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
3. Trust and Infidelity
Trust is fundamental to a healthy relationship and can be one of the most important things to talk about in couples therapy. In therapy, you’ll find a safe place to address past betrayals or breaches of trust that resulted from infidelity. Rebuilding trust issues in a relationship takes time, effort, patience, and dedication — not to mention a genuine desire to heal the relationship.
A couples counselor can guide you through the journey by offering tools for effective communication and encouraging empathy. They can also help you set realistic expectations for the healing process.
The benefit: Openly exploring trust issues in therapy can help you understand the root causes. The process benefits both partners as you rebuild trust through honesty and transparency.
Strategies to address infidelity in your relationship
There are several ways a relationship can begin to overcome infidelity.
- Understand the root cause of the infidelity
- Acknowledge feelings — pain, anger, guilt — without judgment or blame
- Create boundaries about acceptable behavior moving forward
- Encourage forgiveness by creating an environment where it’s possible but not forced
4. Intimacy and Sexual Compatibility
Discussing sexual desires, needs, and boundaries is paramount if you want a healthy relationship. In couples counseling, you can bring up any concerns about your sex life, including differences in desire or preferences.
The benefit: By exploring your honest feelings, you can enhance intimacy and create a fulfilling sexual relationship that strengthens your bond.
How to improve intimacy and sexual compatibility
You and your partner can work on your intimacy and develop a fulfilling sexual relationship using the following tips.
- Discuss desires and boundaries
- Find common ground
- Nurture an emotional connection
- Make time for one another
5. Conflict Resolution
One of the most popular marriage counseling topics deals with conflict resolution. Therapy helps you identify patterns of conflict and areas where disagreements have become common in the relationship.
The benefit: Experienced therapists can teach you how to manage relationship or marriage problems effectively by finding mutually rewarding solutions.
How to work on conflict resolution skills
Some popular methods used to improve conflict resolution skills include:
- Effective communication strategies
- Active listening
- Empathy building
- Negotiation and compromise
- Boundary building
6. Life Transitions and Stressors
Significant (and often stressful) life events — for example, career changes, relocation, or starting a family — can profoundly impact relationships. In therapy, you can focus on navigating life’s challenges as a team by developing coping strategies.
The benefit: Discussing how you feel about major transitions in a couples counseling session can let you productively address the stressors affecting your connection.
How to survive life transitions and stressors
If you struggle with navigating major life events, try using some tips here.
- Acknowledge the impact of change
- Find supportive solutions
- Build resilience together
- Be empathetic to each other’s opinions
- Validate their feelings
7. Roles and Responsibilities
Discussing the division of household tasks, financial responsibilities, and decision-making processes can be difficult in any relationship. Time in therapy can be used to help establish clear roles and responsibilities without letting conversations become hostile.
The benefit: Addressing any imbalances or conflicts in roles and responsibilities during couples therapy sessions can help you set expectations that you can live with.
Ways to define and assess roles and responsibilities in a relationship
The following strategies can help assess the roles and responsibilities in your relationship so you can avoid conflict.
- Identify imbalances in the relationship
- Negotiate new roles for each partner
- Set boundaries and consequences if needed
“A couple’s therapist will help outline what has been falling through the cracks, so everyone can engage in a negotiation as to the most fair of resolutions. Acts of service will always be a primary love language for a lot of couples.”– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
8. Family Dynamics
Exploring family influence on your partnership can be a worthwhile exercise in relationship therapy. We often don’t realize how much our background and upbringing can affect current relationships — diving into these themes can give valuable insight into patterns and behaviors that may be causing strife in your partnership.
The benefit: Discussing conflicts that stem from interactions with extended family members will help you develop ways to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.
Tips for dealing with challenging family dynamics
Fortunately, you can learn to deal with family dynamics in several ways.
- Acknowledge cultural differences
- Navigate in-law relationships
- Find a balance between families
- Set boundaries and help each other enforce them
9. Financial Management
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 31% of couples say money is a significant source of stress in their relationship. Addressing finances is essential for couples, but it can be a sensitive topic. You need to learn to have open and honest conversations about money in a positive way. Creating financial goals and exploring your values and approach to money management is key.
The benefit: Having those tough financial discussions during couples therapy sessions can help identify where money issues stem from so you can work to overcome them. You can create an effective plan for budgeting, saving, and handling shared expenses in the relationship.
Tools to improve financial management skills
- Create a joint budget and establish a monthly spending plan
- Set financial goals together for paying off debt or building savings for retirement or vacation plans
- Discuss spending habits and priorities when managing money
- Evaluate existing debts and create an action plan to pay it
10. Parenting and Co-Parenting
When children are involved, therapy can be an effective place to discuss parenting styles. It can be where you explore how to deal with discipline or make educational choices. Your therapist can help you identify potential parenting conflicts before they drive a wedge in the relationship.
The benefit: Working through parenting or co-parenting issues with a therapist will help create a healthy family environment where everyone — parents and kids — thrives.
11. Quality Time
Couples therapy is an opportunity to explore shared interests, hobbies, and leisure activities you enjoy doing together. Discussing the importance of spending quality time together will nurture your relationship and strengthen emotional bonds.
The benefit: Implementing quality time and activities into the daily routines of a relationship is important. It’s well worth it to use time in therapy to understand what your partner needs if you want to create lasting memories and deeper connections.
How to make quality time a priority
It’s easy to make quality time a focus in your relationship. Using the following ideas can help.
- Find common interests
- Maintain a balance between individuality and togetherness
- Schedule regular date nights or quality time activities
- Create a list of potential activities based on mutual interests
- Prioritize events or experiences that are new or exciting
- Incorporate elements of surprise or spontaneity
- Communicate openly about your expectations and desires
12. Future Plans and Life Goals
One of the most essential topics to discuss in couples therapy is individual and shared goals for the future. Addressing differences in long-term goals is crucial since they can significantly impact the relationship’s success.
The benefit: By exploring each partner’s dream for the future, you can create a unified, rewarding shared vision and develop a plan to get there.
Tips for creating plans and goals
To plan for your future together and create life goals, start by:
- Identifying individual aspirations
- Negotiating shared goals
- Crafting a plan together
“Most couples’ therapists will encourage that time and space is reserved to see where the relationship is headed. It is a chance to reflect on what has been going well and what needs to be changed to be more in alignment with the couple’s goals and ambitions. Monthly and yearly goals, even multiple-year goals can be helpful to align current behaviors with future outcomes.”– Talkspace therapist Meaghan Rice, PsyD, LPC
Find a Safe Space with Talkspace
Discovering couples therapy topics can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Taking the time to explore your relationship with the guidance and expertise of a good couples therapist will contribute to the overall health of your relationship. Mental health professionals at Talkspace can help you learn vital communication skills, resolve conflicts effectively, and foster deeper connections with your partner.
If you’re ready to take the next step in improving your relationship but are unsure what to talk about at couples therapy, reach out to Talkspace today. It can be the first step on your journey toward a healthy, happy relationship.
- Lebow, J.L. et al. (2011) ‘Research on the treatment of couple distress’, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 38(1), pp. 145–168. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2011.00249.x. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22283385/. Accessed May 27, 2023..1. Happy couples: How to avoid money arguments. American Psychological Association. Accessed May 27, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/money/conflict.
- Happy couples: How to avoid money arguments. American Psychological Association. Accessed May 27, 2023. https://www.apa.org/topics/money/conflict.