Navigating marriage issues or divorce is a complex, emotional process. Whether you are contemplating the fate of your marriage or are certain about your divorce, and regardless if it is just you and your spouse or if children are a part of the process as well, working with a therapist can be incredibly valuable to everyone involved. Getting help early in the process can help smooth out some of the bumps going forward.
Pre-divorce counseling, or sometimes called discernment counseling, is often a way for couples to air out disagreements, speak openly about their hurts and fears, and convey what they need from the spouse or relationship – all under the guidance and supervision of a therapist. This type of counseling has multiple benefits, including being able to determine whether or not divorce is the right course of action for the marriage in the first place.
Many couples seek out pre-divorce counseling particularly when kids are involved in the process in order to facilitate a more civilized process of working through issues or making decisions about divorce. Spouses will learn skills to communicate respectfully, understand both sides, and keep the best interests of their children at the forefront during the entire process.
While it is usually the goal to save the marriage if possible, sometimes the best course of action is to allow the relationship to come to an end. Counseling can help increase the chances the ending can be amicable.
Rather than thinking of your divorce as a failure, your therapist can help you view the process as a completion of the relationship and help you come through it as thoughtfully and as pragmatically as possible. The skills that can be gained through seeking counseling through divorce will help you as you continue to share parenting responsibilities, social engagements, and financial decisions down the road.
Oftentimes, the first step after a couple has decided to end their marriage is to take some time to consider what they each need in order to walk away from the marriage peacefully. Sometimes, individuals need time alone. Others speak to family or an individual therapist to sort out their emotions around this decision.
The next important step in divorce counseling is to review the marriage. What brought you together? What have you learned from one another? How have you hurt each other? What role did each of you play in bringing the marriage to an end? In this time, you are processing the grief of the loss of the marriage – what it was and what you had envisioned for the future. Even when there are valid reasons to end a marriage, there is often a sense of loss that needs to be processed. When that grief is processed, the marriage can come to a completion without feelings of guilt for either person.
Finally, it’s time to craft the vision for what your relationship (and your personal life) will look like moving forward. Do you wish to stay friends? Will you co-parent? Would you rather make a clean break? With the help of a therapist, the couple is able to lay out an agreement about what their future looks like. This involves letting go of any residual anger or hostility in favor of being able to fully move forward. At this point, each person may pursue individual therapy as they continue to process the divorce experience and adjust to all the changes that come with it.
Remember – in the process of divorce, while you are ending one important period in your life, often with some level of pain and loss, you are also beginning a new stage. Your therapist can help you throughout the entire process so that your new beginning can be a fresh start — leaving behind what didn’t work, learning from what went wrong, and stepping forward with confidence.
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