Sunday, May 15, 2011

Last Ditch Effort: Should You Try Marital Counseling?

What should you do if, after a discussion about divorce, your spouse requests that the two of you attend marriage counseling to try to save the marriage? Or, should you suggest that you and your spouse get counseling before taking the giant step of filing for divorce?

There's no universal answer, but I would generally lean toward trying the counseling. You would invest some time, money and emotional energy, but the reward could be much greater than the cost, if you are able to get your marriage back on track. Here are some possible benefits from both sides putting in the effort through counseling.

Advantages of Trying Counseling

You could improve your marital relationship and save the marriage. Counseling actually works sometimes when both parties make the commitment and follow through. It's not going to be easy, but there is a possibility of real improvement for each of you.

Even if your marriage isn't saved, there may be significant benefits from working with a counselor.
  • You and your spouse can learn some skills to help you better cope with a divorce. Your counselor can help both of you learn to listen and communicate better, manage stress and deal with difficult decisions that come up with a divorce. If you have children, you can work on learning co-parenting skills.
  • A counselor may be able to help each of you understand the need for divorce. There may be insurmountable differences in goals, values or the views of the respective roles of the parties. There could be issues relating to the extended family on either or both sides. There may be very different ideas about how to raise the kids. Some things can't be "fixed" and it can help to get that confirmed by an outsider.
  • Counseling may help synchronize the emotional states of both parties. It is quite common for one spouse to work through a lot of family issues internally without saying anything to his/her spouse, and then "suddenly" announce the need for divorce. People going through divorces usually go through a number of steps emotionally before they get to acceptance of the divorce. If only one party has been working through that journey, unbeknown to the other party, it can be really tough on the one surprised. Counseling can help the slower party understand what is happening and can help the faster party learn to slow down and give the spouse time to work through the emotions.
  • Sometimes you just need a referee to help you and your spouse have civilized, adult conversations. The counselor can help maintain order and make sure both of you are heard.
What should you do if you or your spouse wants marital counseling?

  • Make sure you get a qualified, experienced counselor. You can research on line and you should get referrals from a Family Law attorney or someone else you trust. You can change counselors if you don't like how the sessions are going, but don't use that as a weapon against your spouse.
  • Make sure you can afford the counseling. Find out what the cost is and check into whether the counseling can be covered by a health insurance policy. Only request counseling if you sincerely want it. Don't waste your money just going through the motions. Make sure your spouse is sincere about attending and following through with the counselor's suggestions.
  • Don't expect vindication. Neither you nor your spouse should go into counseling expecting vindication or a decision saying that you are completely right and your spouse is completely wrong. There is normally room for improvement on both sides.
Final Words

Remember: neither you nor a counselor can make your spouse change. Counseling can work, but don't assume that it will magically (or quickly) transform a difficult situation.


anderapadoker said...

This is very informative post about counselling thanks for sharing it in detail.

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Shane said...

Wow Dick, great post. Congrats on the Top Divorce Blog honors as well. Keep it up!
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Gary Christ said...

Great post about marriage counseling. Everyone wish to save their marriage. If you are in that category try in marriage counseling, it will help to save your marriage. There is lots of advantages in marriage counseling.

Tom said...

Wow, great post! Thank you for validating the Marriage Counseling field. Appreciate you encouraging your clients and readers this way.