Marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. While it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. Divorce rates also vary with the partners’ level of education, religious beliefs, and many other factors.
But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most stressful life events. The decision to divorce often is met with ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved, they may experience negative effects such as denial, feelings of abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation, and acting out.
While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some, others may wish to try to salvage whatever is left of the union. When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek marriage counseling. Here are seven good reasons.
- Communication has become negative.
When communication has deteriorated, it can be nearly impossible to move in the right direction without guidance. Counterproductive, negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. Often it is the tone, volume and speed of the voices as one or both try to voice their opinion. With escalation, there are not only hurt feelings, but it can devolve into emotional or even physical abuse. “You never listen!” and such statements replaced with I statements open the door to better communication; “I need to talk about something.” This is just a start. Counseling can be almost like referring and coaching, as I model tone, nonverbal and phrases and it really does help couples learn best.
- When there was an affair.
Recovering from an affair is possible, and it takes more than just work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula but there are structures that I use in session that help a couple recover and grow after an affair. Sometimes, it might end up that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.
- When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space.”
When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the couple feels are important and they feel they just “co-exist,” this may be an indication that a skilled clinician can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back with new rituals, routines or perhaps the need to process some hidden hurts.
- When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences.
When a couple is stuck and they even agree on the problem, sometimes a skilled clinician is needed to get them moving in the right direction. There is so much good research to support the steps toward a more loving and healthy union and a couple might have read the books, tried on their own, but I find I can help them be accountable to each other so that they are more likely to do the home work required to really make progress.
- When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings.
Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, even harmful acting out, tantrums and down-right cruelty. A skilled clinician can help the couple sort out negative feelings and find better ways to express them.
- When the only resolution appears to be separation.
When a couple disagrees or argues, a break from each other can be helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem may still be there. I have helped couples devise a plan for an informal separation by first completing individual templates in my secure portal and then discussing in session. Part of the deal is ongoing individual and couple work, which may include counseling.
- When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children.
Research indicates children from friendly divorces fare better than those in caustic marriages. Children are generally very intuitive and intelligent. No matter how couples may think they are able to fake their happiness, most children are able to tell.
All marriages in trouble are worth the effort but some will end in separation or divorce. Whatever the outcome, each individual can learn new skills and engage in self-discovery that can last a life-time.
Reach out to me for help and start with my half hour consultation to find out more and meet me in person, soon. Then you can think about it, talk about it and decide how best to proceed. I usually recommend doing the Gottman check-up and starting with a 2 or 3 hour long session and, YES, I work weekends and evenings!