Faith Therapy: Saving Your Marriage
We’re Thinking about Divorce. Is It Worth Considering Marriage Counseling?
Q: My partner and I are on the brink of splitting up. Is it worth it to go to therapy before we move forward with a divorce? And how do you know if it’s even worth trying to save?
A: In my work with couples on the brink of separation/divorce, without immediately obvious deal-breakers such as physical abuse or addiction, it takes about four sessions to conclude that a couple cannot be helped and that separation may be necessary. When I work with a couple is only an opportunity to tell on each other and spew venom, I know we’re in trouble because my role has become distorted, and therefore, hurtful rather than helpful.
Signs of this include disdainful, if not hateful, facial expressions toward the spouse; inability of one or both spouses to be soothed by anything their partner does or says; impenetrable defensiveness where one spouse refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing and casts blame incessantly; frequent interruptions by either spouse that frustrates attempts at reconciliation; resentment and an inability to forgive the sins of the past where genuine attempts at repentance have been made; or the big emotional check-out” by one spouse (particularly the woman because it’s rarer), which constitutes a passive, deadly retreat.
John Gottman, author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,”says there are four main indicators of divorce: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. The success of therapy depends on the desire of each spouse to reconcile. The best-trained therapist, the most caring minister, the most supportive friends and family cannot override the will of one who desires to remain hostile, bitter or disengaged from a spouse. When there’s not enough grace or graciousness toward a spouse then marriage counseling is likely to be ineffective. Couples get out of therapy only what they’re willing to put into it.