My Partner and I are Not Married. Can We Still Go to Couples Therapy?

You may find yourself in a relationship that needs some outside guidance in order to progress in a healthy way. Couples therapy is designed to help partners overcome many relationship obstacles such as communication issues, infidelity, power struggles, or intimacy problems. These obstacles, however, are not simply limited to married couples. Here, therapists explain how couples therapy is available to any kinds of partners, regardless of whether or not you are married:

Therapist Denise OnofreyDenise Onofrey, MA, LMFTC: Couples therapy is relationship therapy. All couples face challenges, and partners need support to navigate those challenges in a healthy and effective manner. Most “marriage” therapists have the skills and knowledge to support every type of relationship, but it is essential you ask a potential therapist specific questions so that you can make an educated choice about which therapist to work with.

Therapists are people, too; they may come from a specific viewpoint on the costs and benefits of some relationship configurations. For example, some therapists believe that living together, or cohabitation, has great costs to the relationship and therefore don’t support a couple’s choice to do so. Other therapists believe there is a benefit to cohabitation prior to marriage. It is important to ask clarifying questions of your potential therapist to ensure your views align. However, I encourage all people seeking therapy to be open-minded and willing to hear opposing views in order to grow and expand our perspectives. Though a good therapist checks his or her opinions at the door, consider what questions you need to ask in order to ensure you are entering into a therapeutic relationship in which you can thrive.

Last, research shows that most relationships endure similar phases. Some phases are more trying than others, whereas some are more fun and light. Long and committed relationships in therapy are different than deciding to marry or deciding if someone is fit to date. The phase of your relationship may also impact the work you and your partner will do within couples therapy.

Therapist Susan LevitonSusan J. Leviton, MA, LMFT: Couples therapy is not synonymous with marriage counseling. Couples therapy is appropriate for any two adults who are having excessive conflict in their relationship. You can enter into therapy regardless of your living arrangements, or how long you have been together, or your sexual orientation. In fact, in many situations the “couple” is a parent and child, or siblings. In other words, the title of the treatment is not the important factor. What matters is that two people want help with their relationship.

It is important to remember that the goal of the therapist is not to “fix” the relationship, but rather to help the couple clarify their individual needs, learn better communication skills, and examine areas of conflict so that each partner is able to make thoughtful decisions about what is and is not working for them within the relationship.

Therapist Jonathan BartlettJonathan Bartlett, MA, MFT: There are many critical stages in a relationship that take place before or beyond the bonds of marriage—all of which can benefit from therapy. Not every therapist has had the chance to develop their expertise working with couples. Those that have those skills are generally happy to work with unmarried couples.

The phrase “marriage counselor” is an outdated but popular search term that still might lead you to a great relationship counselor. Be sure you are both comfortable inquiring into your counselor’s experience with unmarried couples if you have any doubts.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Melissa

    July 22nd, 2020 at 7:42 PM

    I am looking to enroll in couples therapy due to having issues that have escalated to major with my boyfriend of 11 1/2 months. We both have agreed to try therapy in hopes to strengthen the relationship before making a decision to seperate.

  • jocelyn

    November 11th, 2021 at 2:35 PM

    i need help with my relationship

  • Jobo

    June 21st, 2022 at 7:50 AM

    Good afternoon Sir \madam I am struggling with my relationship issues what I like to know is where can I go and get help. Thank you

  • Sara GT

    June 21st, 2022 at 11:21 AM

    Dear Jobo, We are sorry to hear that you are struggling in your relationship but we are happy that you reached out for help. To find a mental health professional that can offer couples or individual therapy, you can start finding practitioners in your area by entering your city or ZIP code into the search field on this page: Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. Please feel free to click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. If you need help finding a therapist, you are welcome to call us. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time, and our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext 3. Kind regards, The GoodTherapy Team

  • william

    January 30th, 2023 at 9:52 PM

    couples therapy not married – male female relationship older couple 65+

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