Couples Therapists Share The Instant Red Flags That Might Not Be Worth Fixing

It’s a hard lesson to learn, but it’s not enough to simply love someone and want to be with them. Relationships are hard work, and unless healthy foundations are established and maintained, love often proves not to be enough.

Couples often don’t realize this until it’s too late and run to therapy hoping to salvage it. Yet even therapy isn’t a miracle worker when the damage’s already been done.

Being Entirely Dependent On Each Other

two women hugging in bed
Photo Credit: Kutut Subiyanto / Pexels
Photo Credit: Kutut Subiyanto / Pexels

“These are typically young women (sometimes young men as well) who do not work, do not have children, stay home all day, and have no friends or hobbies outside of hanging out with their spouse. Very unhealthy, and a huge red flag. Always ends in a painful and messy breakup.” —milksteaknjellybean / Reddit

It’s important for both parties to have their own independent friends, communities, and fulfillment so they can find self-worth without their partner.

One Is Sure And One Has Doubts

pman talks to therapist by the clock
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels

“One partner says they’re seeking your services to help them determine if they want to stay together; the other partner says they’re seeking your services to make it so they stay together.” —ChickenSoup4theRoll / Reddit

At that point, the sessions become about helping the person who’s confused figure out what they want and make a decision.

“Retaliatory Cheating”

man drinks wine from hotel tray
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels

“I saw a couple that was doing ‘retaliatory’ cheating (and telling each other about it). When they got through their anger, they decided to call a truce and made peace.” —lightspeeed / Reddit

Fighting isn’t an excuse to act out in the moment, even if you come clean about it after the damage is already done.

Wanting To Be Proven Right

man and woman on laptops talking
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels

“People who approach therapy with the idea that they must convince the therapist that they’re right and their partner is wrong. Almost like they’re complaining to a parent or boss to have them sort out the problems.” —Hyujikol / Reddit

Couples in conflict often forget that they should act as a team against the conflict rather than feel in conflict with each other.

Consistent Lack Of Intimacy

couple cuddles in bed
Photo Credit: Claudia Van / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Claudia Van / Unsplash

“Spouses who don’t sleep together without a justifiable reason. As in, not due to work conflicts or medical reasons, but because one spouse just doesn’t feel like going to bed alongside the other. Lack of intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual, will lead to the two drifting apart. ” —NEM3S1S / Reddit

It’s easy to get too comfortable to bother putting in the effort, but it’s crucial to keep the bedroom spicy and exciting to get to.

Needless Escalation Of Arguments

man and woman argue at park
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Photo Credit: Vera Arsic / Pexels

“When ‘I don’t think we need this expensive thing’ is escalated to ‘you don’t really love me.’ Mostly because the one using this to avoid accountability is almost guaranteed to play this card in relation to the therapy itself with ‘I had to drag them here’ or ‘they’re just trying to break up with me.'” —PsychoPhilosopher / Reddit

The escalation tactic is often used to manipulate the other person about feeling bad about their feelings rather than focus on the actual issue.

Meeting Seems Like A Distant Memory

woman kisses man on the cheek in the woods
Photo Credit: Vitor Lima / Pexels
Photo Credit: Vitor Lima / Pexels

“I ask how the couple met. If there is absolutely no positive affect from either person, no one even cracks a smile, or they just give me a single sentence answer, that’s usually a signal they’ve been so unhappy so long, or the conflict is so overwhelming that they can’t access those good warm fuzzy feelings from the beginning.” —future_ex_ms_malcolm / Reddit

Sometimes, getting back to the beginning is the key to getting through the present moment.

Constant Bickering And Arguing

man smokes by window while woman sits at table
Photo Credit: Cotton bro / Pexels
Photo Credit: Cotton bro / Pexels

“If frequent and bitter conflict began a few months (or less) after the relationship began, and continued, relationship therapy won’t be helpful. Either the conflict will continue indefinitely, or come to an end.” —jollybumpkin / Reddit

This is why it’s so important to establish healthy habits and foundations early on. Otherwise, bad ones become the norm.

Staying Together For The Kids

family all in denim facing the back in the woods
Photo Credit: John Mark Smith / Unsplash
Photo Credit: John Mark Smith / Unsplash

“It leads to an unhealthy mindset where the couple sees the children as a burden and believes that by remaining in an unhealthy relationship, it will somehow make the kids turn out alright.” —NEM3S1S / Reddit

Ironically, this actually ends up being more harmful to the kids, as they can sense the tension between their parents.

Being Too Independent From One Another

man and woman sit at therapists office across from each other
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels
Photo Credit: Cotton Bro / Pexels

We know we said couples need to lead lives that extend beyond just the relationship. However, there’s a balance.

“Active independence is my number one sign. As soon as I realize a couple is doing things separately, like applying for car loans without the others knowledge or planning personal trips without consulting the other, I know that the couple is soon doomed.” —Mattrockj / Reddit

Communication Is Like Talking To A Wall

man and woman argue by packing boxes
Photo Credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels
Photo Credit: Ketut Subiyanto / Pexels

“I’ll just say that if you find yourself screaming ‘I’m not yelling at you,’ you might have a communication problem.” —bda-goat / Reddit

This isn’t completely unfixable as long as you’re actually willing to listen to each other.

When The Love Has Faded

close up of two hands holding each other
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Photo Credit: Grit Stephen / Pexels

“Saying, directly to each other, ‘I don’t love you. I am just here to try and like you enough to stay together.’ And the other person replying with ‘good. We can do that.'” —jbuam / Reddit

If you’re not even willing to fall back in love with each other, then what’s the point of wanting to stay together?

Failing To Take Each Other’s Needs Into Account

man lays on woman holding flower
Photo Credit: Ricardo Esquivel / Pexels
Photo Credit: Ricardo Esquivel / Pexels

“It’s very easy to work out when one person knowingly prioritizes their own wants and needs over their partner’s. Relationships like this are often doomed because the person simply doesn’t care enough to make any meaningful change.” —ocelot_piss / Reddit

If you truly care for each other, you’ll naturally about each other’s needs as well.

Forgetting Aout The Good Times

man kisses woman's cheek while laughing
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

“When people come in and they’ve been so unhappy for so long that they actually can’t remember what it was like to be in love or to even like each other, they’re just about hopeless.” —TiredMold / Reddit

Sometimes all it takes is looking back at pictures, going on an adventure together, or recreating your first date.

Trying To Fundamentally Change One Another

man and woman face each other letting the light in between them
Photo Credit: Vince Fleming / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Vince Fleming / Unsplash

“When I see a couple in which one or both of the members are seeking to change something fundamental about the other person.

“We process where the need for the change comes from and the person with the issue evaluates whether it’s a dealbreaker for them or not.” —ladyledylidy / Reddit

You fell in love with them for who they were, so why change them?

Tit For Tat Arrangements

man point finger at woman
Photo Credit: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels
Photo Credit: Mikhail Nilov / Pexels

“For example: I cheated so you can have one night to cheat with whomever. Or I violated your trust, you can go out and do whatever for one night. It erodes trust and compounds the hurt.” —crode080 / Reddit

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Rather, it would be more helpful if they put in the effort to avoid repeating the same mistake and breaking the cycle.

The Presence Of Meta-Conversation

man and woman sit on couch talking
Photo Credit: Ekaterina Boltovtsova / Pexels
Photo Credit: Ekaterina Boltovtsova / Pexels

“There are always two levels of communication, one is the direct message intended (please clean up the dishes) and the second is communication about the communication (I expect you to do what I ask).

“When communication about the communication turns meta, the message gets muddled and a power struggle erupts from misunderstandings.” —mybustersword / Reddit

Being Excessively Controlling

woman texting at a station
Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhia / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Daria Nepriakhia / Unsplash

“I most commonly see partners having to send pictures holding up a certain number of fingers or proving that it’s a live picture.” —crode080 / Reddit

Trust is either there or it isn’t. There’s no such thing as half-trust, but trust can be built.

Wanting To Show The Other Person They’re Wrong

couple in robes in bed looking upset
Photo Credit: Damir Spanic / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Damir Spanic / Unsplash

“The most important piece comes from invalidation. This comes in many forms, from gaslighting to just simple denial of another’s opinion. Most of the time one or both parties are simply trying to be heard on an emotional level with an event or topic that was brought up, but the other party takes this as a personal attack on their ideals.” —Shozo_Nishi / Reddit

That’s just part of learning how to effectively communicate.

The Secret To Making It Work Is…

woman holds man's face to kiss him
Photo Credit: Cassie Lopez / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Cassie Lopez / Unsplash

“Trust and respect. Love is not included in these qualities because love is not a determiner of a strong/healthy relationship.

“Dysfunctional relationships are still possible among people who love each other. And loving someone isn’t the only reason to stay with a person.” —sparky32383 / Reddit

So there you have it.