Perhaps you’ve felt for a while that your marriage is in trouble.
Each day, your unhappiness becomes more apparent. Yet, while you see the pain in each other’s eyes, it seems neither of you can bring yourself to initiating a discussion about the obvious question: Are you heading toward a divorce?
Maybe you would like to turn the situation around. But, should you suggest marriage counseling to your partner? Will your spouse even agree to it?
Or perhaps you feel it’s already too late to save your relationship. But, how do you know you won’t make a mistake by pursuing a divorce? What if you look back one day and regret it?
And what about your children? How will a divorce affect them? Is it worse to stay together in misery or to split? Should you make a more concerted effort to fix your marriage because of them?
Obviously, there are many reasons why the decision to divorce is painful and so difficult to make. But in the end, you must decide what to do with the unbearable situation between you and your spouse. Letting your problems continue to fester is clearly not the right path.
So, how do you know what to do?
Finding Clarity with Counseling
If you’re struggling with the decision of whether to stay in your marriage or not, counseling can help bring more clarity.
Many things can influence a couple’s decision-making when it comes to directing their marriage or raising their children. Often, cultural and social expectations, the pressures from family and friends, or past life experiences can muddle their vision on what would be the best choices for them.
The decision to divorce—or not—is no different.
With pressures and expectations weighing down on you, it’s hard for both of you to find the space to really look at your situation objectively and seriously consider all your options.
Counseling can provide that space. Free from the influence of others, you can consider the pros and cons in a supportive, neutral environment.
The idea is to help both of you to head in the same direction and either…
1. leave your relationship as it is for the time being,
2. mutually decide to pursue a constructive divorce,
3. or work on renewing your marriage and commit to six months of marriage counseling.
The role of the counselor is to help you both fully understand the consequences of all three choices. Making sure that you’re not jumping the gun and getting divorced needlessly, but also that you’re not wasting your time and efforts on marriage counseling just because you feel that’s what others expect of you.
How Counseling Works
Counseling sessions can operate in a variety of ways. Sometimes the counselor may want to meet with each of you individually. Other times it will be best to see you both together. During the joint meeting time, you each are invited to share your perspectives calmly and respectfully to foster a better understanding of each other’s issues.
Session goals are different for each of you, depending on if you are leaning toward divorce (leaning out) or toward staying together and working it out (leaning in). The partner who is leaning out will be able to gain clarity and confidence to end their inner struggle and decide what is the best next step. And the partner who is leaning in will be able to honestly discuss their feelings without letting desperation take over.
Throughout these sessions, your counselor will provide a neutral sounding board for both of you. They are not there to convince you to stay or go. They’re there to help you slow down, think things through, and reach clarity about what you want and why.
Frankly, if you refuse to explore what you contributed to the problems in your marriage, you’ll just set yourself up for repeating the same mistakes over and over.
This type of deep soul-searching and learning often happens in marriage counseling, as both spouses try to make changes to save their relationship. But regardless if one of you doesn’t want to commit to working on the marriage, an experienced counselor can still help you both understand why the relationship ended up in its current state.
And even though you may separate, getting to the bottom of what went wrong and how you contributed to your problems can be helpful and productive. Thoroughly processing the circumstances and your emotions can not only assist more amicable resolutions between you, but also better your approach to any future relationships.
Plus, if you are both parents, when you are more agreeable and pulling in the same direction (regardless of your personal relationship), it’s always better for the children.
If you’re not sure whether to call it quits or give your all to fix what’s wrong in your marriage, counseling can support you and provide an invaluable opportunity to gain clarity.
Take the first step…
If you are struggling in your marriage and unsure about your next step, I would like to help you gain more clarity.
Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT