The end of a marriage often is the worst event in a person’s life. Even under the best of circumstances, the end of a marriage relationship can be characterized by hurt, regret, anger, depression, guilty relief and a difficult period of re-adjustment to single life. When children are present, the ending of the relationship between their parents marks a profound transformation in family life, with significant disruptions and a huge loss of emotional safety and, often, financial security.  Even the most peaceful of divorces has an impact on all individuals connected to the couple (extended families, friends, co-workers, neighbors), on the spouses themselves and on their children and their families.

My Approach to Discernment Counseling

In working with couples who are separated or are seriously contemplating divorce, working on repairing the relationship is often no longer possible until a joint decision is made as to how to proceed.

This process of discovery is called discernment counseling.  In coaching the couple through the process of discernment, I maintain the following set of assumptions and beliefs:

  1. This type of couples counseling is better described as discernment counseling, because it is aimed at helping the couple decide whether to end or continue their marriage, leaving all options on the table.
  2. Very often, one spouse is “leaning in” while the other is “leaning out” of staying married.
  3. There are three major “deal breakers” in a marriage, each of which can spell the end of it: Adultery, Addiction, and Abuse; when one or more of these is present and ongoing, the prognosis about the marriage viability must be reserved.
  4. As a marriage and family therapist, I am for marriage and I believe that everything possible should be done to avoid an unnecessary divorce.
  5. Realistically, not all marriages can be saved: in these cases, it is better to work on a divorce process that is collaborative and gets the job done with the least possible amount and intensity of conflict, acrimony, and recrimination.

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Unsure on how to proceed at this point? Can’t decide what to do next? Are you afraid of making the wrong decision? Call Dr. Z for an appointment at (678) 554-5632 or fill out the online appointment request

“My spouse doesn’t want to come to counseling… What should I say or do?”

If your spouse refuses to join you in couples counseling, he or she will often invoke one or more “reasons” such as, “It’s too expensive” (the money reason); or, “I don’t see how it can help” (the effectiveness reason); or, “We can work on this without a third party” (the do-it-yourself reason); or, “I don’t see the point, it’s too late” (the hopelessness reason); or, “I don’t know what to do” (the clueless reason); or some variation on these themes.

What should you do?

In the face of these objections, starting a fight, leaving the house, asking your spouse to leave, giving ultimatums, filing for divorce, or using physical force will NOT work to remove his or her objections. The best recommendation, as far as behavior is concerned, is to try and communicate with your spouse either verbally or in writing.

What should you say?

The communication should be centered around offering reasons why getting professional help is a good idea.

First, start by accepting that your spouse may not be motivated to work on the marriage “to make it better” but may be willing to try and discern whether the marriage should continue at all… Read the rest of this article