When it comes to divorce, making the right decision is harder than making the wrong one.
The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Should you save your marriage or not? Determining the appropriate course of action means figuring out if your problems can be solved – and more importantly, if you want to solve them.
What happens when your spouse isn’t sure they want to save the marriage or not? Should you stay or should you go? Traditional marriage counseling won’t help in this situation. In fact, it can make things worse!
Discernment Counseling, also known is as “Stay-or-Go”, is about clarity. Your clarity. It is for those who are considering divorce but want to be sure this is the right path for them. If you want to take one more look before making a permanent decision with long term consequences, Discernment Counseling is what you need.
Discernment Counseling helps couples better understand what’s happened to their relationship, so they can decide whether to break up or work to repair it. It’s very different from traditional marriage or relationship counseling because this kind of counseling is not about solving the problems; it’s about figuring out whether the problems can be solved.
Who needs discernment counseling?
Discernment counseling is designed primarily for couples where one partner is leaning out of the marriage and the other wants to stay together and fix the problems; or where both spouses are questioning whether staying together is the right thing to do. In Discernment Counseling you can expect to:
- Gain clarity and confidence about what steps to take next with your marriage
- Develop a deeper understanding of what has happened to your marriage
- Look at “three sides” of your problems: yours, your spouse’s and that of an objective third party
- Make a good decision about whether to move towards divorce, or make one last try to restore the relationship to health
What does discernment counseling involve?
The discernment counselor will help the couple choose among three options: moving towards divorce, carving out a period of time for an all-out effort to preserve the marriage, or agreeing to decide later. The sessions are divided between conversation with the couple together and individual conversations with each spouse. The counselor respects the reasons for divorce while trying to open the possibility of restoring the marriage to health.
The counselor helps both partners see their individual contributions to the problems and to possible solutions. Understanding what you’ve contributed to the marriage problems can be useful in future relationships even if this one ends.
Discernment Counseling is considered successful when both partners more fully understand what’s happened to their relationship and have clarity and confidence in their decision on how to move forward – whatever that decision may be.
How many sessions will you need?
Discernment work is a short-term process (generally 1 to 5 ninety-minute sessions) which leads to one of three possible outcomes:
- Preserving the marriage as it is
- A decision to divorce
- Setting a clear agenda for change with both partners making all-out efforts to repair their marriage.
The focus of discernment counseling is not on solving marital problems, but on seeing if they could potentially be solved.
When is discernment counseling not suitable?
- When one spouse is coercing or manipulating the other to participate.
- When there is domestic violence.
- When there is an Order of Protection from the court.