If your marriage is going through tough times, you might be considering counseling or divorce as the solution to your problems. But which path should you and your partner take? And will outside advice really help or will it only make things worse?
To answer these questions, you'll need to consider another question: Are you or your partner already determined to separate? If the answer to that question is yes, seeing an adviser will not be very effective and may even be detrimental to your relationship.
Marriage Counseling Requires Two People
Some people might feel that seeking guidance is a way to show that you really tried to save the relationship. Many married people have gone through counseling before they separate. However, this mediation can come too late.
For counseling to work, both partners need to truly want to work things out. If one of them is already checked out of the relationship, seeing a therapist can make things worse. The partner who wants a divorce might view outside advice as a way to "prove" that separation is the answer, leading the other partner to feel deceived and betrayed. This might cause increased bad feelings between the two people and then lead to a messy divorce.
In general, outside advice is very effective for many couples. However, some couples set up an appointment after they have put divorce on the table. Some people use the counselor's office as a place to reveal their desire to split in what they perceive to be a safe place. When this happens, an adviser can't do much to help the couple work through their problems. Both partners need to have the same desire to save their marriage for counseling to have a chance in repairing the relationship.
Marriage Counseling Works Best When It Is Proactive
Many struggling married couples simply wait too long before they decide to undergo counseling. Or they view it as a last resort before ending splitting. This is often not the best way or the right mindset to have when sitting down with an adviser.
If you've been having problems in your marriage for a long time and you both think it's going to ultimately end in counseling or separation, seeking guidance might not make much difference. The best time to seek help is before too many scars and resentments have formed. Seeing a therapist is for preserving something that you still care about, not saving something that's already gone.
The Pros of Marriage Counseling
When two people are close to separating but both of them want to see if they can make it work with the help of a different perspective, marriage counseling can and does help. Even if the relationship heads towards divorce, getting advice can help both people gain perspective and some emotional skills that will help them through the separation process and afterwards. The key to this is that both people need to be willing to listen, be open to change and accept equal responsibility for the problems they are having.
Marriage Counseling Isn't For Everyone
Certain problems cannot be resolved in the counselor's office. Here are some reasons to not see an adviser:
- Years and years of bad feelings, emotional scars, and baggage that can't be resolved in a few meetings.
- Serious external issues are affecting the marriage, like addiction and mental illnesses that are untreated.
- Physical, verbal, or emotional abuse is present. The abused partner might not feel safe or free to voice his/her true feelings in counseling sessions, leading to nowhere.
It can be a hard decision to decide between counseling or ending your marriage. Ultimately, you'll have to be honest with yourself and your partner. Are you both completely ready to listen, talk things out and perhaps make some changes? Or is one of you ready to move on? Whether you choose to see a therapist or separation, think about the other people involved, such as your children, and if a therapist would help things or make things worse.
For more information on deciding which route is best for you and your partner, you might want to consult 7 Signs You Might Need a Divorce and Where to Start When Considering a Divorce. Talking with an attorney might help, too. Kenny Leigh and Associates is a family law firm that is focused on representing men in both North and South Florida, including Jacksonville, Fleming island, Daytona, Fort Walton Beach, and Boca Raton.