Ask any couples counsellor and they will tell you, partners mostly come way too late wanting to fix their relationship. Despite hearing unhealthy noises for a long time, couples chose to ignore it and now their relationship is about to fall onto a road of despair.

When should you take your relationship to a couple counsellor? The answer is as soon as you spot trouble and while you still have positive feelings for each other. The longer you leave it the more likely those positive feelings will disappear and real communication problems set in.

Buying a property, moving in with each other, handling extended family issues, forming a sexual contract, negotiating different HIV status, alcohol issues, money problems, issues with friends, jealousy, health matters, sex concerns (or the lack of it) are just a few of the issues to take to couples counselling as early as you can to save the relationship. If you experience walking on eggshells, engage in constant bickering or find yourself shutting down on issues, it is time to pick up the phone.

I believe couples can handle many issues themselves but if things are not getting resolved early on then investing in couples counselling, to navigate a better relationship with your closest life partner, is an effort well spent.

In couples counselling each person gets to talk through the counsellor while the other listens. This usually does not happen at home as it feels right to defend criticism and take a stand on disagreements. By being defensive no one ends up listening and nothing gets resolved. It is really important to resolve important issues even if it is you agree to disagree.

In Australia there is a general view that going to counselling is a weakness when in actual fact it shows strength and respect for the relationship, by engaging in adult – and safe discussion. In Argentina 80% of the population has a therapist. In Western Europe, the USA and the UK people are much more likely to go to a trained counsellor than in Australia.

The same message applies to individuals about preventive counselling – get in early for the best results. You would be surprised how much gay and lesbians keep to themselves over private issues. Take depression for instance. Many are happy to get medication to handle symptoms but not to invest in preventive measures to discover the cause and hopefully stop the need for constant drug prescriptions.

I have taken my relationship to counselling and understand what it is like to sit in a room with a trained counsellor. Like all trained counsellors I am also in regular supervision to maintain my mental health. I always feel better afterwards having gotten things off my chest, finally felt heard and supported by the counsellor. I also leave with a road map of where to go from here emotionally and with my behaviour.

Counselling costs money but it can be the best investment you will make to improve your life, the lives of your partner and others. Nip issues in the bud before they get out of hand is the message – preventive counselling saves relationships.

Gerry North is a gay couples counsellor and treats depression, anxiety, sexual matters and addictions. Email: [email protected] or www

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