Are you emotionally exhausted from trying to breathe life into your marriage? Do you feel like you’re in quicksand – the harder you try the more you sink into a deeper hole? Is there anger or resentment building because one or both of you believes that the other partner is not working hard enough to save the marriage, or do you simply have one foot out of the relationship but can’t decide if separation or divorce is the best option?
At times, when I meet with a couple who are considering separation or divorce, it becomes apparent that before “couples counseling” we should sort out the mixed agendas that seem to be apparent. Mixed agenda is another way of describing a relationship where one or both partners have one foot in the relationship and one foot out. One or both people are not sure they want to continue the relationship.
At this point we shift the focus from attempting to support, repair, and transform the relationship with interventions towards a specific focus of creating clarity, instilling confidence, and coming to a decision about the relationship.
We focus efforts on building clarity around what’s happened to the relationship and how each partner has contributed to the situation. The couple develops a confidence in determining what path they want to go.
The “decision” usually follows one of three paths.
- Stay the course and try to find a way to survive the situation and each other.
- Separate and divorce.
- Commit to on-going couples counseling and work on the relationship or marriage.
This approach is known as Discernment Counseling. A short-term approach for couples who are not sure what to do with their relationship. The only commitment is 1 appointment and both partners agree to schedule more, if needed. Generally, the process does not exceed more than 5 sessions.
Often, couples jump into traditional couples counseling and find themselves frustrated because they are exposed to interventions and deeper relationship work. All the while, one or both partners is simply trying to decide “Do I want to be in this relationship?” and the work during couples counseling becomes ineffective.
Discernment Counseling is an excellent option for couples to consider BEFORE they initiate couples counseling. When a couple decides, during Discernment Counseling, they both want to save the relationship and put in the work the downstream results from couples counseling becomes much more apparent and rewarding.
How do you determine if you are in a relationship that may benefit from Discernment Counseling? Ask yourself a few questions?
- Am I as happy in this relationship as I could be on my own?
- Do I feel “stuck” but can’t decide to stay or move on?
- Have you said to your partner “I’m not sure I want to be here?”
- Has your partner said to you “I have one foot out!”
Trying to decide WHAT TO DO can be a challenging question to process on your own or to discuss in a relationship where one or both partners has checked out. Therefore, before you consider jumping in to couples counseling consider Discernment Counseling as a means to support both partners in finding clarity and confidence in formulating the most effective decision for the relationship.