Discernment Counseling for Couples on the Brink of Divorce

Is one of you leaning in (trying to save the marriage) while the other one is leaning out (considering ending it)?

Is divorce on the table but you’re not sure if it’s really the right decision?

Would you like to gain clarity on your relationship and structured support around moving forward?

At this point, chances are that either you or your partner has said something along the lines of:

“I don’t love you anymore.”

“I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

“You are not the person I married.”

“I’m just not attracted to you.”

“I’ve been unhappy for a long time.”

“We never should have gotten married.”

“I met someone else.”

If you are the trying to save this marriage (leaning in), these words are like daggers to your heart. You feel completely blind-sighted. How did you get to this place? You had no idea that your partner was feeling this way. You oscillate between anger and sadness, hope and hopelessness.

If you are the person who’s considering leaving this relationship (leaning out), these statements feel like a good reason to divorce. Even so, you still have some doubts. Maybe not a lot… but you have some. At the very least divorce feels like a big decision that you don’t take lightly.

You’re not alone: Counseling for couples on the brink of divorce

Many couples get to a point where divorce is on the table. Some of them listen to the advice of well-meaning family and friends. And they find a lawyer or couples therapist. But, chances are, neither of those options sound great. I’ve got one that you’ll probably like a lot better. And it’s short-term.

For the partner trying to save the marriage (“leaning in”): Would you like to learn what changes you can make to have the best chance at staying married and being happy?

For the partner considering divorce (“leaning out”): Are you open to exploring your options and getting clarity on the relationship? Do you want to feel confidence about the future of your marriage?

If so, discernment counseling could be a good option for you. Couples who complete discernment counseling appreciate having a greater understanding of themselves, their partner, and the relationship. This gives them a better chance at working things out or having a more amicable divorce.

What can we expect from discernment counseling?

Discernment counseling is typically one to five sessions. And it is designed to meet the needs of couples who have different agendas. While you come to the session together, most of the work is done one-on-one with the discernment counselor. I will help the leaning in partner recognize their role in the relationship and their best shot at preserving the marriage. At the same time, I will support the leaning out spouse in getting clarity and understanding their options so that they can make an informed decision.

Discernment Counseling Aims to Help You Have:

  • Clarity on your relationship and the direction you want to go
  • Confidence in your decision about which path to take
    • One: Continue on as you have been
    • Two: Move towards/continue with divorce
    • Three: Take divorce off the table for 6 months and commit to couples therapy
  • Increased Understanding of your relationship, your partner, and each person’s role in the relationship.

At the end of discernment counseling you will have chosen a direction for the future of your marriage. No matter what path you choose, my hope is that discernment counseling will allow you to move forward with your life in the most positive direction.

That sounds good but…

We already tried marriage counseling, how will this be different?

Couples come into marriage counseling to work on things like communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy. This is not what we do in discernment counseling. In discernment counseling, we aren’t trying to address the relationship problems. Instead we’re really trying to discern if the relationship is salvageable.

In addition, the goals are different. In marriage counseling, the goal is to improve the relationship. The goals of discernment counseling are to gain clarity, confidence, and a better understanding of the relationship. This will help you discern if the marriage is something you want to fight for or to respectfully end.

Another difference between marriage counseling and discernment counseling is the structure of sessions. In marriage counseling, you attend sessions together. In discernment counseling, most of the work is done without your spouse in the room. The reason for this is that you have very different goals and agendas. In order to help you both, it needs to be done individually. Then at the end of your individual time, you’ll share something that you learned with your partner.

I’d like to work with you but Evanston is too far for us

To make discernment counseling accessible to more couples, I offer video sessions to people who can’t make it to my office. Unfortunately there are very few trained discernment counselors and MANY couples who could benefit from this type of therapy. As long as you are residing in the state of Illinois, I can see you and your partner via a HIPAA-compliant online counseling platform.

Is discernment counseling worth the investment?

The couples that I see for discernment counseling are very appreciative of the process and have found it to be a worthwhile investment. This is true whether they choose to work on the relationship or divorce. That being said, discernment counseling is not for everyone. It is specifically for mixed agenda couples where one person is considering leaving the relationship and the other person is trying to save it.

Discernment counseling is not for couples who are both committed to working things out. If that’s you, you’ll want to try couples therapy. I don’t recommend discernment counseling if someone is 100% certain that they want a divorce. We can do divorce therapy and work on communication and co-parenting but if you’ve already made up your mind there’s no need for “discerning.” And, finally, I do not offer discernment counseling to couples when there is active violence and/or coercion.

The Bottom Line…

At the end of the day, you can’t divorce yourself. There’s a reason that divorce rates are higher for second and third marriages. Whatever you brought into this marriage, you will bring into the next relationship. Don’t want to get stuck in the past? Discernment counseling can help you move forward. Whether that is separately or together.

Discernment counseling can help you find:

  • Clarity about the relationship and your role in it
  • Confidence about the future of your relationship
  • Greater understanding about the relationship and how it got where it is today

Call or email to schedule your free 15 minute phone consultation today.

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