Divorce Counseling for Couples
The reality of marriage may be much harder than what you expected when saying, “I do”. Living with another person while facing the stresses of family, money, work, and maybe even kids is difficult. Learning how to “fight fair” and forgive and compromise are not lessons taught in school. The challenges of marriage leads many couples to seek professional counseling. And sometimes, when two individuals can’t find common ground, some seek divorce counseling for couples.
Why Marriages Struggle
There are many reasons marriages struggle. Many factors lead to divorce counseling for couples. But, marriage researchers have identified a couple’s ability to communicate as one of the main signs of future marital success. Specifically, it matters how individuals in a marriage handle conflict.
In their book, Fighting for Your Marriage, authors Markman, Stanley, and Blumberg identify four negative conflict patterns contributing to the creation of an unhealthy marriage. Their research has found presence of these four conflict patterns can lead to divorce.
Four Negative Conflict Patterns
Escalation happens when partners continually up the ante in an argument. These arguments move from dishes to discussions about divorce. Escalation happens when partners view conflict as a “battle needing to be won” versus a challenge the two can face together.
This happens when a partner subtly or directly puts down the thoughts and feelings of their spouse. It may seem innocent, like telling your spouse, “It’s not as bad as you think.” But, invalidation can also include outright schoolyard name-calling. Research shows the presence of invalidation is one of best predictors of divorce.
- Negative Interpretations
Negative interpretations occur when one partner continually believes the motives of his/her partner are more negative than they are in reality. Individuals struggling with this conflict pattern engage in mind reading, or assuming they fully understand the motivations of their partner. Sometimes their beliefs are so strong there is nothing their spouse can do to change them.
- Withdrawal and Avoidance
Individuals struggling with withdrawal and avoidance have a hard time staying with important discussions. They avoid difficult conversations at all cost. Or, if they are in an uncomfortable conversation they might withdrawal emotionally and shut down. Sometimes in a marriage one partner is more of the pursuer and the other tends to retreat.
Engaging in these four negative conflict patterns can lead towards divorce and the need for divorce counseling for couples. No marriage is perfect, but healthy marriages try to limit the use of these conflict patterns as much as possible. Sometimes this is difficult because these patterns have been modeled in our family of origin growing up. In this scenario counseling may be helpful to help couples learn new ways to communicate.
Counseling for Couples
Counseling can help couples work through and walk through marital challenges. Sometimes a couple will hit a relational brick wall and aren’t sure how to move forward. Other times a couple has forgotten what it’s like to love each other and the relationship itself becomes a source of stress. There’s no fun, no laughing, no joy in the marriage.
In each circumstance, counseling for couples may be the answer. Counseling is a safe place for partner’s to express frustrations with their marriage. A counselor can act as a referee, helping each partner express what’s really going on. A good counselor can also help marriage partners create new and healthy patterns of communication.
Divorce Counseling for Couples
But, sometimes no amount of counseling can save a marriage. One partner has made the difficult decision to end the marriage. This couple should still consider counseling. But, instead of a counselor talking through how to save the marriage, she will walk through what happens next.
Divorce is difficult and complicated. Both partners are hurt and angry. They may feel embarrassed and disappointed their marriage is failing. They hate what’s happening and easily project these feelings onto their partner. These feelings are multiplied when an event creating complete loss of trust has led to the decision for divorce.
- Who will move out?
- How will assets and debt be divided?
- Who will hold legal and physical custody of the children?
- How will visitation work?
- Who will cover health insurance, etc. for the children?
- How will belongings be divided?
- What will spousal and child support look like?
This is not an exhaustive list, but simply shows there is a lot to consider after making the decision to divorce. Lawyers may help walk partners through these decisions. But, it can also help to talk through these concerns with a professional counselor. Marriage counselors are trained mediators, ready to help couples navigate the difficult decisions of divorce.
The benefit of divorce counseling for couples is the ability to speak with a neutral party. Each partner should pursue legal advice, lawyers are paid to represent their client, not the couple. Counselors are neutral figures, wanting what’s best for both parties. Decisions couples reach in a counselor’s office regarding divorce help save money and stress later.
Counseling and Divorce
The reality of marriage is much different than what is seen in the movies or on t.v. Conflict doesn’t always come to a clean conclusion in thirty minutes. Sometimes there seems to be no good answers and couples need counseling.
But, other times marriage challenges are far greater than simple conflict. Eventually, one or both parties come to the difficult decision to end the marriage through divorce. Divorce is definitely difficult. Some may determine divorce one of the darker times of their entire life. But, navigating divorce is possible. Divorce counseling for couples can help. A trusted counselor can help you walk through this time with as much grace as possible. Divorce counseling for couples will not take away the pain or loss of divorce, but it will help to have a healthy support system during this stressful time.