Should you give up on your marriage? New form of therapy helps you decide

Some people are embarrassed to admit it, but I've no problem saying that my husband and I have tried marriage counseling at least two separate stages in our 13-year relationship. While we've never seriously contemplated divorce, ours is a blended family and when my stepson was young being married to my husband was, at times, extremely difficult. Luckily, we had a great therapist who helped us work through a lot of our issues.

Sometimes, however, a couple gets beyond the point of therapy to help them solve their problems and basically needs help just trying to figure out whether they should stay together or get divorced. Enter "discernment counseling," specifically created with that idea in mind. 


"Around 30 percent of the couples coming into marriage counseling are mixed agenda couples," says Bill Doherty, a professor in the family social science department at the University of Minnesota, who pioneered this new type of therapy. "Divorce is on the table for one of the parties. Traditional marriage counseling has no way to deal with those people. It's been area of frustration for a lot of marriage counselors."

And for a lot of couples who, until now, didn't really have a way of dealing with this situation. The way discernment counseling works is pretty simple. It aims to help the partner who thinks has made up his or her mind about getting divorced figure out if this is really the right decision while helping the partner who wasn't thinking about getting divorced come to terms with that decision. 

The idea is to save as many marriages as possible by helping couples figure out if divorce is really the best solution since it can be such a life-altering decision. To that end, and contrary to traditional marriage counseling, couples in discernment therapy actually get counseled separately, except for a brief check-in at the beginning and a check-out at the end. Counselors meet with couples up to five times and three paths are explored: staying in the marriage as is, divorce or a 6-month-long reconciliation option. 

After seeing the pain, suffering and disruption created by divorce, this sounds like a promising style of therapy that I'd be willing to try if, God forbid, my husband and I ever get to a point where divorce starts looking like a viable option. 

Do you think this type of therapy is worth it?

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Topics: marriage  divorce