There was a very dark period in my life when I was in a whirlpool of negativity about my own marriage, and when getting out of it was the only way I could see to move forward.
It’s mortifying to me now to think back to that time period, and to realize how close I came to throwing away a wonderful partnership with a man I adore. I also shudder at the thought of the chaos it would’ve created for our two boys. It almost feels like I was in a time of temporary insanity. I know it sounds extreme, but I also know it happens in a lot of other marriages too, especially to wives who feel their emotional needs aren’t being met.
Situations like these require special treatment beyond the normal course of marriage counseling. It’s called discernment or “stay or go” counseling.
The first questions: What are the issues? Can they be resolved?
Discernment counseling isn’t about solving the problems in your marriage; it’s about figuring out what the problems are….and then deciding if you want to try and work on them.
Discernment counseling puts a laser-like focus on the question of whether or not to repair the marriage. Often we recommend discernment work in situations where one spouse is thinking of leaving and the other is thinking of staying. In other cases, both spouses are questioning whether to continue on in the marriage. In either situation, the discernment process is going to help you answer the questions of: 1) Where are we now? 2) How did we get here? 3) How do we want to move forward?''Discernment counseling isn’t about solving the problems; it’s about figuring out what the problems are….and then deciding if you want to work on them.'' Click To Tweet
For some couples, the discernment process is an important first step in marriage repair, as it ensures both parties are committed to the work at hand.
The real question: Are you committed?
In my experience, when marriage counseling fails it’s often due to an underlying absence of commitment. We can help a couple go through weeks of “doing the work” only to have one spouse finally admit they had no intention of staying in the marriage. What a sad, tragic waste of time and emotional energy.
Discernment counseling can help you avoid this tragic waste of time and emotional commitment. During the process, the counselor will help you evaluate and choose from three options:
- Preserving your marriage as it is, or
- Deciding to divorce, or
- Setting a clear agenda for change, with both of you making all-out effort to repair the marriage over a defined period of time.
Each session typically includes time with you together and also separate conversations with each of you individually. Your counselor will respect your individual perspectives on the relationship and help each of you see your contributions to the issues.
Discernment counseling is considered successful when you have clarity to choose a path forward, confidence in your decision, and a more complete understanding about what’s happened to the relationship.
It is your choice
Notice I said when YOU have clarity. This is YOUR relationship. Our team at The Marriage Place always prioritizes the possibility of restoring the marriage to health; but we also firmly believe only the two of you – the two of you in the marriage – can truly decide if your relationship can or should be saved. Your commitment to one of the three options will be what provides the foundation for any future work, whatever the direction.
When it doesn’t work
In marriage counseling, there is never a one size-fits-all solution. This is especially so with discernment counseling. The discernment process is simply not suitable when:
- One spouse is trying to manipulate the other spouse into participating.
- Domestic violence is taking place.
- There is an Order of Protection from the court.
Regardless of the circumstances, we can help you chart a path forward. Our coaches have worked with hundreds of couples from around the world, in a vast range of situations. They can help you assess where you are now, together or individually, and map out your options. Let us help you – Click here to get started.