In recent years, marriage counselors have noticed a big problem with a large number of couples that were visiting their offices: in about 30 percent of cases, one person in the couple had already decided they wanted a divorce, while the other person wanted to work on the marriage. What do you do with couples with these mixed agendas? One counselor involved with the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project has developed a new type of marriage counseling, called discernment counseling, to help these couples make the best decision for their families.

The Problem with “Mixed Agenda” Couples

Some couples enter into counseling together with the joint goal of saving their marriage. However, in many cases one person has already decided to leave (whether their partner is aware or not), while the other person wants to repair the relationship. These cases, professor Bill Doherty believes, should be dealt with differently. Divorce should be an option on the table, and the couple should meet both separately and as a pair with a professional.

If the mixed agenda of a couple is ignored, the person who wants to leave the marriage (whether secretly or openly) may resist all counseling, sabotage the sessions, or simply passively not cooperate or communicate throughout the process.

What is Discernment Counseling?

In traditional couples’ counseling, the therapist meets with both people in the marriage at the same time. In discernment counseling, counselors meet both with the couple and with the individuals so that they are able to better understand the situation. At the same time, “divorce” is no longer a bad word – it is a possibility that is open to discussion. During the sessions, the group weighs the pros and cons of staying together, of getting divorce, or of choosing a temporary separation (or reconciliation).

Instead of shutting out one person or the other in a mixed agenda couple, discernment counseling respects both partner’s positions and discusses all of the options, including saving the marriage and letting the marriage end.

Seek Advice From Our Bellevue Divorce Attorneys

Discernment counseling is interesting because it puts forth the idea that some couples will be better off separating – and that even some couples who will eventually choose to stay together can benefit from talking openly about the option of divorce.

Do you need the help of a Seattle divorce attorney? Family lawyer Molly Kenny helps those in Bellevue and the surrounding area navigate the difficult process of ending a marriage. Call 425-460-0550 today to schedule an appointment or download one of our free guides.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington