Before you see a marriage counselor, learn how counseling affects relationships. After I describe the reasons why marriage counseling leads to divorce, I discuss other options for unhappy couples.
In Desperate Marriages: Moving Toward Hope and Healing in Your Relationship, Gary Chapman offers hope and encouragement for every marriage – even for those with deeply rooted wounds. Chapman provides positive steps for dealing with spouses who are workaholics, controlling, critical, uncommunicative, physically, verbally, or sexually abusive, unfaithful, alcoholic or drug-abusing, depressed or irresponsible.
This book is a great option for couples who aren’t happy, but who don’t want to try marriage counseling. Many of my readers, such as the women who commented on Why Does Love Hurt? 6 Excuses for Abuse, say their husbands don’t want to go to marriage counseling. I always encourage women to go for counseling on their own, because pursuing emotional and spiritual freedom is the first step towards making healthy decisions about life.
Does Marriage Counseling Lead to Divorce?
One reason marriage therapy seems to cause divorce is the fact that couples aren’t always honest with their partners or the counselor. Spouses may be ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to admit their thoughts and actions, which creates barriers in the marriage.
Relationships like this eventually end in divorce – and the couple thinks it’s because of the marriage therapy. If you want to rebuild your marriage, you must as honest as possible in and out of therapy.
Couples Try Marriage Counseling as a Last Resort
Couples who go to counseling usually have serious marriage problems, and haven’t learned about conflict resolution in marriage. When problems get too big, they can’t always be solved – even with the help of a marital therapist.
When couples wait until the issues are insurmountable before seeking counseling, the problems may be too deep and ingrained to solve. To save a troubled marriage, resolve to deal with marriage problems before years have passed.
Couples Quit Therapy Too Soon
Marriage problems can take years to develop, and require time, effort, and energy to resolve! If the couple quits therapy after few months and then separates, it could appear that the counseling caused the divorce. In reality, it was the fact that the couple didn’t work on their problems long enough. To save a troubled marriage, stay in counseling for at least six months – or even a year.
Marriage Counselors Can Cause Problems in Relationships
Some couples counselors damage marriages and actually cause problems that lead to divorce. A therapist can make marriage problems worse by choosing the wrong therapeutic approach, announcing the marriage is doomed to failure, or by simply being incompetent.
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If you want to save your marriage, ask the therapist for credentials and references. Ask for a free “information interview,” and make sure the counselor helps you both feel comfortable and accepted.
Couples counseling doesn’t typically cause divorce. Usually, therapy reveals unresolvable or deep-seated issues in the marriage; it’s those marriage problems that lead to divorce.
Learning healthy conflict resolution from the beginning – before the wedding, even — is the best way to build a healthy, happy marriage.
What Do You Do in an Unhappy Marriage?
Even unhappily married couples struggle with the decision to get a divorce. These options for unhappy marriages may help partners make the best decision for everyone.
Divorce doesn’t just affect the married couple, which is partly why it’s so difficult to decide whether to get divorced. Getting divorced versus staying married is a decision that affects the couple’s children, extended family, circle of friends, and sometimes even their colleagues.
These four options for couples struggling in unhappy marriages may help resolve the question of, “Should we get a divorce?”
Reading, thinking about, and discussing these options will help clarify each partner’s feelings about divorce, and hopes for the future of the marriage.
Stay Married and Hope the Marriage Improves
“Although it may sound silly, you do have the option of doing nothing and hoping things improve,” writes Susan Pease Gadoua in Contemplating Divorce: A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go. “Sometimes, putting the problems on the back burner does make issues go away for a period, but in most cases they usually resurface somewhere down the road.”
If a married couple chooses to ignore marriage problems now, those problems may lead to a future crisis, such as physical or emotional affairs, financial losses, addictions, or mental or emotional breakdowns. Ignoring problems often makes unhappy marriages even unhappier in the long run. Ignoring marital problems may only temporarily solve the problem of whether to get a divorce.
Stay Married and Get Marriage Counseling
Getting a divorce could be avoided with outside interventions such as couples counseling, family or marital therapy, legal mediation, or a trial separation.
But, be warned: “People sometimes have unrealistic expectations of how much these outside influences can accomplish,” says Gadoua. “What couples should keep in mind is that the success rate of any intervention they employ, regardless of what it is or how capable the professional, will only be as good as both spouses’ levels of motivation.”
Indeed, marriage counseling has the reputation of causing divorce for married couples.
Stay Married and Work on Your Problems on Your Own
Inside interventions that can help an unhappy couple include reading books about rebuilding a strong marriage and/or books that describe when divorce is the best option. Or, a couple can, through rational discussions over a period of time, methodically and objectively explore and resolve the marriage problems that lead to this point – an option that’s difficult, but doable! Inside interventions involve dedication on both partners’ parts. Both partners need to be committed to making the marriage work.
Other types of inside interventions that can rebuild unhappy marriages include career changes, geographical moves, or even having a child – but often these are distractions that temporarily hide marriage problems. Whether those interventions work depends on the source of the marriage problems.
Seek Resources and Initiate Divorce Proceedings
If the above options for couples in unhappy marriages don’t solve the “Should we get a divorce?” question, then it may be time to seek resources for divorce. This can involve talking to a divorce lawyer, reading books about divorce, attending divorce support groups, and learning how to share the news of the marriage breakdown to family and friends.
The decision to get a divorce or stay married is never easy – but deciding one way or another and then working towards that goal can be empowering, liberating, and even healing.
Read How to Get Help for Your Marriage to learn more about your options.
I welcome your thoughts on these reasons marriage counseling leads to divorce, but I can’t offer relationship advice. Writing might bring you clarity and insight into your life, so I encourage you to journal or somehow express your feelings about your marriage.
May God bless you with a peaceful, happy marriage – and with wisdom to know how to recreate your relationship.
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