In my work as a psychotherapist, I’d say that about 25% of the people who come to me are on the fence about continuing their marriages or “committed relationships.” Generally, spouses have been together long enough for the rose-colored glasses to have come off, and have lost hope for a happy marriage. “Trying” seems to be inauthentic, as partners recite the long list of violations and disillusionments, and the longer list of futile attempts at repair. It’s not uncommon for one or both spouses to be having, or have had an affair. It’s also not uncommon for one or both partners to have consulted an attorney, readying for a split. They are “hovering by the escape hatches,” yet they often describe having problems they’d somehow like to fix. The sense of anguish in the room is palpable.
As a couple therapist, I have spent most of my career fighting to save marriages, and often I’m the last one standing! As marriage counselors we’ve been trained to pull up the hope in the partnership, and teach people how to get along better: strategies for better boundaries, communication, managing conflict, spending quality time together, figuring out how to collaborate, etc. But sometimes one spouse wants to try, and the other doesn’t, and that’s when traditional methods can fail. Getting “busy” working on trying to fix a marriage on the brink can be misguided. First, couples need to have the psychological space to decide if they both want to try to reconcile. Any treatment which provides “tools” prematurely is missing the point.
Enter “Discernment Counseling,” a 1 – 5 session process of exploring what would need to be different for the “leaning out” spouse to have the energy to “try,” and how the “leaning in” spouse can maintain a stance which brings their best self to the process, not one which humiliates or degrades them.
I’m very excited about this work, and have been added to the National Directory of Discernment Counselors after having completed The Minnesota Couples On The Brink Project training. (As far as I know, I am now the only Discernment Counselor in New Hampshire).
I will be doing a half hour BlogTalk Radio show introducing this process on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 8 PM EST. Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join me live on the air with questions or comments. I’d love to make it a conversation! If you can’t make the live show, you can hear the recording afterward at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager