Couples therapy is meant to help couples overcome issues and make their relationship stronger. However, there are instances where couples therapy may not be the most effective course of action. Understanding these situations can help couples make the most of their therapy experience. In this article, we will discuss a few situations where couples therapy might not bring the best results.

  • There is Violence And/Or Abuse In The Relationship

Couples therapy requires both partners to have some tough and real conversations about the difficult parts of their relationship. Tough conversations often bring up a lot of emotions. If one or both partners use violence to cope with uncomfortable emotions, it might be difficult to get any constructive results from couples therapy work. Indulging in tough conversations may only worsen the pre-existing violence.

Apart from that, the presence of violence in the relationship might also compromise the physical and emotional safety of both partners, leading to an ineffective therapy environment. In such situations, the couples therapist might recommend individual therapy so that partners can learn healthy ways to manage their emotions before starting couples therapy.

  • Both Partners Have Different Goals From Couples Therapy

Couples therapy works based on structure and goals. For the therapy process to be effective, both partners need to be on the same page about what they want from the process. If both partners have drastically opposing goals, it will be difficult to achieve any fruitful progress. For Ex- if one partner wants to stay in the relationship and the other wants to break up, That is why it is helpful to have common goals when you are considering couples therapy

  • Lack of Commitment From One or Both Partners

For couples therapy to be effective, both partners need to be actively engaged and committed to the process. If one or both individuals are not fully invested, progress can be slow or even non-existent. Missing sessions, minimal participation, reluctance to open up, and unwillingness to work on the relationship outside of therapy sessions are all signs of a lack of commitment. Couples therapy requires both partners to actively contribute and commit to the relationship. Without the full participation of both, the process may not yield great results

  • Unresolved Individual Issues

Couples therapy primarily targets issues within the relationship, but sometimes progress can be difficult if one or both partners are struggling with unresolved traumas from their past. Trauma can have a long-lasting impact on one’s relationships and everyday functioning.  Discussing relationship dynamics in therapy can trigger traumatic emotions and experiences. Seeking individual therapy to work with past traumas before starting couples therapy might be helpful in such situations

  • Unrealistic Expectations

Like any other therapy process, couples therapy requires time, commitment and patience. It is also a collaborative process. Expecting therapy to work like magic or a miracle within only a few sessions might only lead to disappointment. 

It is also important to know that couples therapy works best when both partners are committed to making an effort Expecting couples therapists to ‘fix’ one partner while the other is unwilling to change will result in no progress. 


Couples therapy is a valuable resource for many struggling relationships, but it is only effective when both partners have common goals and are committed to working on themselves and the relationship. Expecting only one partner to make changes or the therapist to ‘fix’ everything might only lead to disappointment.


  1. 3 Reasons Why Couples’ Therapy May Not Be Working For You | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2024, from
  2. Corchado, S. (2023, August 3). When To Stop Marriage Counseling: Resistant to The Process!, 
  3. Landau, E. (2020, August 7). When Couples Therapy May Not Be Right For You. Couples Therapy Melbourne.
  4. Ph.D, A. T. (2021, May 15). 6 Reasons Your Couple’s Therapy Won’t Work. The Good Men Project.
  5. When is Couples Therapy not Appropriate? Alternative Options to Couples Therapy. (2023, September 29).

Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin