Your Call: When Should You Go to Couples Therapy?

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call on the letter below by leaving your advice in the comments section. 

Dear Em & Lo,

I love my boyfriend: we share the same values and the same tastes. We’re totally attracted to each other. But we fight all the time. Over little things: like cleaning up (I’m messy), choice of words (his are often not PC), extended family (we both aren’t crazy about the each other’s), indecision (he never has an opinion), etc.  We’ve only been together a little over a year (living together for half that), so it seems premature to consider  couples’ counseling, though I can’t imagine breaking up with him any time soon. I also can’t imagine spending my life with us fighting like this.  At what point do you decide to try therapy and when do you just break up? 

— Ninja Girlfriend

What should N.G. do? Let her know in the comments below. 


  1. There is no hard and fast rule that you must be together for X amount of time before you can go to counseling. You go when you need it. However, if a relationship needs this much work this early on, it might be a sign that you two are just incompatible.

    1. Sure, it might be a sign you’re incompatible… or maybe it’s a sign that you’re taking this relationship really seriously and you’re FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. It’s really easy to let things go when you don’t think the relationship is going anywhere. But the moment you realize, oh my god, this might be The One, every argument and disagreement can take on more significance, at least for some people. You think, well, I can’t just let this go, because then I’m setting a precedent for the next fifty years. I need to create a sturdy foundation for this relationship. I’m not saying that’s a healthy way to think, but I do think it can have as much to do with the person as the relationship.

  2. What exactly do you hope to get out of therapy? What do you think a therapist is going to do or say to fix these problems that you couldn’t do or say yourselves?

    Try communicating nicely, not bitching at each other, and meeting each other half way. If those things are so difficult for you two that you have to pay a stranger to act as referee, just break up. You don’t have kids, I presume you’re renting…

    Honestly it sounds like you don’t share the same values at all. This sounds like a case of incompatible people brought together by attraction.

  3. You’re fighting all the time–that doesn’t sound like a livable situation. Why not try therapy now? If the alternatives are continuing to be miserable or breaking up without even seeing if couples’ therapy can help, it seems like a no-brainer. Getting a great therapist is critical, though, so see if someone you trust who likes their therapist can get you a referral. Good luck!

    1. I agree — I don’t think that it’s necessarily too early to see a therapist. Some people are just better fighters than others — they learn early how to fight fair, and how to make up. Other people need a little help getting there — maybe their own parents were mean, emotionally abusive fighters, for example. Or maybe their own parents never let them witness any fights at all. Whatever the issue, I don’t see the harm in trying out therapy. Even if the relationship doesn’t survive, the conflict-solving skills you learn in therapy will be with you for life. (Assuming you find a decent therapist, of course…)

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