We’ve all witnessed it and probably lived through it. You meet someone new and live life on the same wavelength. You finish each other’s sentences and never disagree! It may not be accurate and it’s certainly not permanent. But it’s epic while it lasts.
Over time, a more realistic perspective takes hold—and that’s not a bad thing. You figure some stuff out. Commitments are made, but those nagging differences and mixed feelings may remain. Eventually, as a couple, you hit a stalemate. Even the little things feel difficult and, in the dark moments, you wonder if it’s fixable.
Couples and Mixed Feelings
She responds to messages immediately. He leaves her on “read.” Is this a sign? He makes a move towards intimacy. She’s not in the mood. Does it have a deeper meaning? From small beginnings, couples can begin to drift. Then, when the big issues must be dealt with, the future can look fuzzy from opposite ends of the spectrum. Some “big issues” include:
- Starting a family
- Finances, investing, planning
- Buying a house or apartment
- Intimacy and sexual shifts
- Physical or emotional abuse
The list is endless. The suggestions for dealing with them can be endless, too. That’s precisely where discernment counseling becomes a viable option.
What is Discernment Counseling?
We don’t talk about it in polite company, but all couples hit times when their relationship is just hanging on. One partner is desperately trying to hold everything together. The other is emotionally checked out. Discernment counseling was created with this scenario in mind. The goal is to assist the couple in deciding if they want to:
- Work things out and stay together; or
- Begin the process of separation or divorce with (ideally) minimal conflict
The standard perception of couples counseling revolves around saving the marriage. Couples counseling, however, has little chance of succeeding unless both partners are committed to change. Both partners must clearly decide if they wish to stay together in the first place.
How Discernment Counseling Can Help Your Future Together
1. It gets right to the heart of the matter
Discernment counseling is a “structured assessment” rather than open-ended counseling. This means you and your partner will—in five sessions or less—answer the big question: Are you willing to do your part to repair this relationship? It may be the obvious question, but it’s also the question couples dance around without addressing. Neither partner wants to be the one to throw in the towel. Your therapist will help you sort through your mixed emotions.
2. You each get to have your say
The process starts with each partner having their own one-on-one session with the therapist. Yes, it's true that there are two sides to every story—and then there’s the truth. We each live our own realities and it’s crucial to express those truths when contemplating the future of your marriage.
3. You don’t have to be seeking to “save” your marriage
Couples in discernment counseling may end up beginning a new process: divorce. Roughly 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. The number for second and third marriages is even higher. There may still be a stigma existing around this issue but it’s common and must be treated as such.
If you reach the opposite decision and really want to engage in couples therapy, you chances of success will be much greater when both partners are fully committed to the process.
What Can a Discernment Counselor Do For You?
Relationships present a continual series of challenges. There is no shame when some of those challenges get the better of you. In addition, there’s no shame in questioning the sustainability of your marriage.
The key is to address these questions head-on, as soon as possible. A discernment counselor is a facilitator. He or she creates a safe environment in which both partners can honestly and fairly assess their emotions. It’s normal to sometimes have mixed feelings about your future together.
Discernment counseling is a powerful tool for attaining clarity and planning strategy. If your choice is to save the marriage, then couples counseling can begin in earnest with both partners committed to success.