She loves him… She loves him not.
Jill* sits down at her desk to make a list. She writes two headings at the top of the page: “pros” and “cons.”
Her head is filled with ambivalence and confusion; she needs to understand it all.
Some days, she’s had it – she’s reached the end of her rope. Maybe they should get a divorce. Their problems are too big… too complicated… too much to handle.
But her heart is torn.
On other days, things aren’t bad. They’ve been blessed with two beautiful children – and a divorce would crush them. The mere thought of not seeing her kids daily fills her heart with dread and despair.
And, if she’s honest with herself, she knows she’ll miss him, too.
But damn! He drives her crazy. He leaves his dishes out like it’s her job to do them. Practically addicted to his phone, he barely notices her anymore.
Most days, she wakes up and falls asleep feeling alone and hurt. That one is going under the “cons.”
It wasn’t always like this…
She taps her pen against her lips while considering the pros column. “Hmmm… pros, pros…”
Her mind wanders back to how it used to be in the beginning. A smile forms at the corner of her mouth as the memories roll in.
Skinny dipping in the summer…
Making out in the park, not caring who saw…
Staying up all night without the slightest hint of exhaustion – actually energized by the mere thought of him…
Back then, she would have done anything for him. But now, her heart hardened by resentment, she wonders if it’s even possible to save their marriage.
If only someone could just tell her what to do. If only someone could help her figure out the right next step.
So, Jill heads to Google.
She types “how to know when you should get a divorce” into the search field.
Her search yields a few unhelpful articles. They all make it seem like a simple decision.
Some even tell her to make a pros and cons list. She rolls her eyes. “Thanks for the genius tip.”
But then, she notices it: “discernment counseling.” “What’s this?” she thinks. Jill doesn’t know it yet, but she’s just stumbled across her perfect solution.
Discernment counseling – What is it?
Discernment counseling follows a particular process to help people determine whether they should leave their marriage – or stay and work on it.
Instead of helping the couple solve its problems (that’s traditional couples counseling), it helps the couple answer the ultimate question first:
Should you stay, or should you go?
It focuses on helping the couple gain the clarity needed to make a solid decision and feel confident they have chosen well.
Who is it for?
Discernment counseling is for people uncertain about what to do with their relationship.
Sometimes, one person in the relationship is unsure – sometimes, both.
It’s also for people either leaning in (they want to stay) or leaning out (they want to leave) of the marriage.
Discernment counseling is designed for all these couples: the unsure, the fairly sure, or the indecisive.
What does it look like?
This is a very structured process, so it’s best done by someone with a lot of training and experience in discernment counseling.
The first session is two hours. That might seem like a long time, but it flies by. It’s actually hard not to exceed that time. Your relationship is complex, so we’ll have much to discuss.
We’ll break the time into two different sections. I will meet with you both for the first 30-45 minutes. During this time, I will walk through a list of specific questions that encourage you both to take a bird’s-eye view of your relationship: where it started, what’s happened along the way, and where it is now.
Then, I send one of you out of the room and meet one-on-one with the other person. During this time, we do a deep dive into your experience in the relationship. We focus on taking accountability for your current role in your marriage. By focusing on yourself, you gain clarity. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes.
At the end of our one-on-one time, we create a statement to share with your spouse. This part is hard to explain because it’s different for everyone, but it gives you a chance to say what you want. Sometimes, the statement shares what you’ve learned, what you want to do, what you think your spouse wants to hear from you, or what you’re thinking about.
We bring your spouse back into the room, and with my support (and sometimes guidance), you share.
Then, you and your spouse switch places, and I do a deep dive with the other person similarly.
For the last 15-20 minutes, we wrap up the session by summarizing what you’ve learned and what you’ve decided.
How long does it take?
Discernment counseling is a short-term process. Most couples make their decision between 1-5 sessions.
I know what you’re thinking: “How many sessions do people usually do?” Although the average is 2-3 sessions, many couples can decide after one session.
What else do we need to know?
If you think you want to do couples counseling, but one or both are considering a divorce, discernment counseling is a great tool.
It can also springboard success in marriage therapy by going through this assessment process and recommitting to the marriage.
So, whatever happened to Jill?
Jill found my website and called me.
She told me what was happening, and I confirmed that discernment counseling was the best next step. I asked her to have her husband, Jack, call me to ensure he understood how discernment counseling differs from marriage counseling.
During their appointment, Jack and Jill discovered how much they still love each other. Jack owned up to checking out of the relationship and prioritizing work ahead of Jill. Jill took accountability for not telling Jack how she felt until she exploded and instigated a fight.
They agreed they needed to learn how to communicate more effectively, have a strategy for fighting, and re-prioritize their marriage.
At the end of their session, relief and clarity rolled off them in palpable waves. Their relationship had taken on new and exciting energy.
With this renewed passion for tackling the issues they knew they should have addressed years ago, they started couples counseling.
I can report that their relationship is better than ever!
One final note: Why I love discernment counseling…
Discernment counseling is one of my favorite types of work because I have seen couples on the brink of divorce turn their relationships around.
I’ve facilitated couples with their divorce papers filed, couples living separately, and couples who haven’t had sex in years.
Helping them figure out what has happened to their relationship and make the right decision for them is one of my greatest joys.
Sometimes, a marriage ends, too. Even in those situations, they have gained clarity and confidence in their decision to part ways.
If anything you have read here resonates with you, reach out and schedule a free consultation.
It’s time to take control of your situation, and I’ll happily talk with you about your options: (480) 908-7898.