Discernment Counseling: What to Consider If You're the Partner "Leaning In"

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Should I stay or should I go? Will they stay or will they go?

Recently, we discussed discernment counseling from the viewpoint of the “leaning out" partner. On the other side, of course, there is a frequently a “leaning in” partner, and that is the topic of this post. Let’s review the basics.

What is “Leaning In”?

You and your partner are squabbling too much. You’re not seeing eye to eye, and you may not even be talking much. Unspoken are all the collective doubts about the future of your relationship.

Through it all, however, you’re “leaning in.” This means—regardless of what your partner is feeling—you believe things can be resolved, rearranged, and re-imagined. Based on what you know and how you feel, you are still leaning in to stay and work on the relationship. But how can you discern which way your significant other is leaning?

What is Discernment Counseling?

In a way, it’s both therapy and “pre-therapy” at the same time. Some see it as a very effective method of screening.  The object of the screening is the relationship between the two of you. Are both you and your spouse willing to do the work? Will you explore and examine your behavior? From there, are you both willing to change some of those behaviors with respect to your marriage?

As stated in previous blogs, discernment counseling is a short-term form of therapy assessment designed to help a couple decide what’s next, e.g. couples counseling or the first steps toward a separation and divorce process.

If you are leaning in, of course, you’re also leaning towards long-term therapy. Discernment counseling is where you both learn which way each of you is leaning. Simply put:

  • If both are leaning in, you move on to long-term couples counseling.
  • If both are leaning out, you find healthy ways to separate and divorce.
  • But if one partner is leaning in and the other is leaning out, discernment counseling will help you decide which path makes the most sense.

How Discernment Counseling Can Help if You’re the Partner “Leaning In”

1. Stress Management

Fighting and disagreeing with your spouse can be extremely stressful—especially when you’re unsure about where they are leaning. Discernment counseling offers you a place to exhale, calm your mind, and speak your heart.  You know you're doing everything you can to give your relationship a fair chance.

2. Create a New Focus

Part of the stress mentioned above comes from uncertainty. Whether you like the destination or not, you need to know where you’re headed. Laying your proverbial cards on the table creates a new focus on your relationship.

3. Enhance Your Communication Skills    

Think of discernment counseling as a crash course in healthy and effective communication. You may be afraid to speak your mind and/or afraid to hear what your partner is feeling. Your counselor will guide you through the fear.

4. Commit to a Respectful Resolution

Until you try discernment counseling, you may be genuinely unsure what will happen next. Once the path becomes more clear, you can begin walking it with love and respect.

This May Not Be as Scary as it Seems

If you’re leaning in but not being heard, you can benefit from some professional help.

During tough times, making an effort to simply talk about making an effort feels daunting. In the presence of a discernment counselor, things are different. It’s not the time to replay old gripes or, once again, declare your doubts.

Rather, discernment counseling is a place to be present. In the moment, each of you will have the opportunity to state your opinion on the sustainability of your marriage. Once your positions and concerns are out in the open, the next steps become more clear.

Marital strife does not have to be ugly and permanent. Avoiding this fate requires a productive plan and discernment counseling is a proven option.