What is a Relationship Coach?

By Celeste Hirschman | Updated: August 7, 2023

A relationship coach is someone who supports individuals and couples in learning vital skills for relating, especially in marriages and romantic partnerships. Relationship coaches teach you to develop conflict resolution skills and offer tools to deepen intimacy and pleasure.

But – are they the same as a therapist or marriage counselor? What do relationship coaches do, and how do they work? And – why should you hire one, and how much can you expect to spend on one? We’ll explain everything.

What’s the Purpose of a Relationship Coach?

Relationships are foundational to our sense of happiness in the world. Unfortunately, societal messaging tells us that simply loving someone is enough to make a relationship work. And, if you are having conflict in your relationship, it simply means you have not found the right person.

What if we took this same attitude towards other aspects of our lives? For example, what if we said: “If you were meant to play baseball, you should be able to knock it out of the park the first time you pick up a bat”. Or “If you were meant to be a musician, you should be able to write your own music as soon as you touch a piano.” We know this is absurd. So why do we assume we are just supposed to be great at relationships – when so few of us have actually learned proper relating skills in our early lives?

This is where a relationship coach comes in. Everyone needs help learning how to be good at what they care about. So if you want to have a thriving, amazing relationship, you will benefit from working with a relationship coach.

A couple in a session with a relationship coach

What Does a Relationship Coach Do?

A relationship coach helps both couples and individuals learn the tools to make relationships thrive. While differences and disagreements are a normal part of a relationship, a coach helps you see that you can still be successful partners, as long as you have good communication and conflict resolution skills.

Also, relationship coaches teach couples how to be intimate, improve their communication, and deepen their pleasure. They uncover what makes you and your partner feel most loved, seen, and supported – and then teach you how to give it to each other.

Relationship coaches are aware of one crucial dynamic: that all people are different. If you expect your partner to like and appreciate exactly what you do, you may be completely missing the boat.

Is a Relationship Coach the Same as a Couple’s Therapist or a Marriage Coach?

The biggest issues couples face are around differences in beliefs and needs around money, sex, and child-rearing. While a relationship coach and a marriage coach have very similar approaches to these, couple’s therapy is quite different.

In couple’s therapy, you are limited to only talking through issues. Many therapists do not have any experiential tools to offer.

Relationship coaching for couples, however – especially if it is somatically-based or experiential – offers tactile practices that help overcome challenging dynamics in a relationship. They can also work to intensify intimacy and attachment, and provide tools for relationship repair during challenging times.

What’s the Difference Between a Relationship Coach and a Dating Coach?

couple hugging after relationship coach certification in 2023

In short – a relationship coach helps you achieve satisfaction in long term relationships, while a dating coach is more focused on the early stages of meeting and dating.

A dating coach works with you to boost confidence in your conversational skills. They teach you how to move from small talk to deeper, more engaging conversation styles. Or they demonstrate how to flirt on a first date – and come off as playful instead of desperate or creepy. A dating coach also instructs in seduction tools and – hopefully – tools to be more sensual. Not all dating coaches assist with sexual confidence, which is why it can be helpful to find someone who specializes in both sex and dating.

In contrast, a relationship coach also helps with improving communication – but with the goal to have you be more real and intimate with your existing partner. They teach tools like vulnerability, attentive listening, and speaking empathetically. More profoundly, they can show you how your established character strategies get in the way of your intimate connections. A good relationship coach is able to shift you from painful habits to dynamic, present relating.

How Does a Relationship Coach Work With Me?

When you first sit down with a relationship coach, they explore what you see as your biggest relationship challenges, and what you want to work on. If both partners are present, your coach begins with having you practice relating in front of them.

If you don’t have a current partner, some relationship coaches will practice the relationship with you. Practice relationships are a central way Somatica coaches work with their clients. They are a wonderful way to learn relationship tools in a container of trust and safety.

Once your coach observes how you are communicating or interacting with your partner, they bring in interventions. These may consist of helping you to be more gentle, clear, responsible, and loving in your interactions. For example, if your coach notices you passing blame back and forth, they will challenge you how to speak from your own experiences instead. Or, if they see you sitting on opposite sides of the couch without touching, they may have you talk about the distance you feel. To overcome that, practicing with different kinds of closeness (once you feel comfortable and ready to do so) is a useful tool.

Why Should I Hire a Relationship Coach – and What are the Benefits?

It’s been said a million times – but you don’t know what you don’t know. And, unfortunately, when it comes to receiving feedback in the relationship arena, people don’t give valuable feedback. Your partner might get angry about something you did, but never let you know what exactly made them feel this way. Or perhaps the people in your life are frustrated with the way you act towards them, but never speak up about it. Instead, they distance themselves from you, or even break up with you. And so, you never get the chance to learn and do something different.

The main benefit of working with a relationship coach is the clarity of feedback you receive from them. They alert you about the way you are being perceived by others and give you tools to change. Often, they help partners understand each other better by translating and clarifying misunderstandings. They encourage you to try new ways of doing things and observe if they work out better for you.

Through a process of concise feedback, useful tools, and trial and error practices, your coach helps your relationship be more loving and joyful, avoiding pain and conflict.

What Tools Can I Expect My Coach to Have?

The tool chest for a relationship coach should include most, if not all, of the following:

  1. Talking about your challenges honestly and openly
  2. Practicing vulnerability
  3. Increasing empathy
  4. Helping you deal with disappointment
  5. Practices to deepen attachment
  6. Helping with sexual connection (may need a dual-method sex & relationship coach for this)
  7. Teaching boundaries and consent
  8. Identifying and communicating needs and capacities
Deeper intimacy is a benefit of hiring a relationship coach

How do I Pick the Best Coach For Me?

Like with every professional service provider, you want to first get to know your coach’s philosophy around relationships.

Are they trying to make your relationship fit a traditional model and keep it together at all cost? Or is your coach sincerely invested in giving you insight into patterns and encouraging you to make choices that are right for you? Even though they may not be traditional options like open relationships or ethical non-monogamy?

It’s important to learn if your relationship coach’s philosophy includes a balanced approach between individual happiness and fulfilling relationships. Some coaches only focus on attachment, causing people to put their individual needs aside, which is not healthy. Others focus solely on your individual needs and fail to teach you how to attend to your partner.

When choosing a relationship coach, ensure that they treat you like an adult. Many coaches subscribe to a one-size-fits-all model of relating and won’t even discuss options for alternate relationship structures.

Lastly – find out whether your desired provider is an experiential coach (like a Somatica coach), or a talk coach. While an experiential coach can also provide talk coaching services, the reverse is not true. This directory of relationship coach practitioners can provide a good starting point.

How Much Does a Relationship Coach Charge?

Relationship coaches charge different amounts based on their location, training, and experience.

When looking at rates, you might want to compare them to local therapists in your area. The cost should be similar. However, if you are having sexual issues in your relationship, consider finding someone who is trained as both a sex and relationship coach. Due to their specialization in sex, these types of coaches may charge a bit more.