Many couples go through marriage counseling before filing for divorce in Washington state. For some, it’s a way of determining whether there is enough left between the spouses to “save” the marriage. Others are sure the marriage will end but need a third party to confirm their suspicions. Whatever your motivation, you should know that there are things marriage counseling—and marriage counselors—can’t do.

Marriage Counseling May Not Stop Divorce—and That’s Okay

Young couple stting on a coucc talking with a marriage couselorMarriage counselors are trained to use analysis and family dynamics to help spouses find workable solutions to their problems. However, this kind of therapy will only “save” a marriage if both people in the couple want to stay together. It may seem silly to say, but many couples attempt counseling only to discover that one (or both) of them don’t actually want to continue the marriage.

This doesn’t mean counseling has failed. Rather, it offers closure to the pain and uncertainty both spouses have been feeling and sets the couple in the right frame of mind for a cooperative divorce through mediation. Marriage counseling could set the tone for an amicable divorce if:

  • You need help communicating. Marriage counseling focuses on improved communication between couples, teaching them how to use language that encourages openness and compromise. The skills learned in counseling sessions can be applied during separation, helping spouses control unhelpful outbursts.
  • You and your spouse have different goals. People often think that external factors (such as money) are the cause of all the problems in their marriage. A good counselor will get to the root of the conflict, discovering why these factors keep causing tension and ill feelings. In many cases, spouses have grown apart and have different visions of the future—and neither one can comfortably sacrifice their goals. When both spouses realize and accept that it’s time for the relationship to end, it often makes the breakup easier.
  • It’s not just a rough patch. Spouses may hear from friends and family that all marriages have “rough patches” where couples bicker or can’t see eye to eye. While rough patches are common, they are typically caused by increased stress (such as unemployment) or a recurring problem (such as child care or alcohol abuse) that hasn’t been successfully resolved. Problems that have lasted for two, ten, or twenty years are more than a rough patch—they’re a sign that something needs to change.
  • One of you already wants a divorce. After one spouse announces the intent to divorce, the other may suggest counseling before any papers are filed. Even if the initiating spouse is unlikely to change their mind, counseling can provide a safe setting to tell the other spouse the reasons behind the decision. The spouse who is being served has a platform to talk about their feelings and come to terms with the reality of the divorce, increasing the chances of ending the marriage peacefully.
  • Your main concern is the children. Staying together “for the kids” is a noble reason to try to make a failing marriage work. Unfortunately, children are rarely fooled into believing they have a happy home life when their parents don’t want to be together. Research shows that children living in a home with lots of parental conflict do worse than children living in two separate households. Separation can offer a much more positive environment for children than one full of arguments or complete disconnect between parents—and if spouses are willing to put their children above their own personal happiness, they are likely to collaborate for their children’s benefit in child custody matters.

Let Us Help You Through Your Next Steps

Divorce is not just an emotional and stressful procedure; it’s a complicated court process that requires a lot of paperwork and meeting many filing deadlines. At the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny, we do everything we can to lift the burden off your shoulders, taking over legal matters so that you can prepare for the next phase of your life. Call today to arrange a private consultation, or use our online contact form to have us get back to you.


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