In many situations the options are black or white – should you stay with your current partner, or is it time to end the relationship? However, humans operate in a world of finely nuanced grays, and the answer to hard questions is often more complex than a single “yes” or “no”.
Other resources have always existed to help a single partner or a couple resolve these difficult questions. These alternatives include individual therapy, couples counseling or pastoral counseling. But each of these resources have a particular goal. For example; the individual therapist hopes to help you be comfortable with your own identity and, in order to do that, has to create a therapeutic alliance with you, necessarily excluding your partner’s interests. Similarly, couples counseling usually has the goal of a helping couple to communicate better in order to preserve their existing relationship.
But what, if like many of us, one or both of the parties is not even sure she or he wants to preserve the relationship? What if both parties are unsure whether it is worth investing the significant time, energy and openness that couples counseling needs to succeed? Often one party is “leaning in” to the relationship, while the other is “leaning out”, but both are uncertain.
There is a new alternative specifically designed to assist couples struggling with this dilemma. It’s called “Discernment Counseling”. This is a very particular process in which each partner meets separately with a therapist who has been trained and certified in this technique. Then the couple meets together with the therapist. The process is closed-ended — 4 or 5 sessions; and the shared goal is to help both partners achieve clarity on the single issue of whether to end the relationship or not.
If the answer is “keep trying” for both parties, then the couple probably needs to engage in couples counseling, with the same therapist, or with a different one. If the answer is “its too late” for both, then the answer is clear, and it is time to start working on a separation plan (see our e-books for help with this.) If one party is clear that it is too late, and the other wants to keep trying, the parties are free to engage in whatever other techniques they want, but the “keep trying” partner will ultimately need to recognize that an end will come if either party does not want to stay, and be committed to the relationship.
If it sounds as though this technique would be helpful to you and your partner, then you can get more information, including the name of a qualified counselor in your area from: The DRI Alliance for Marriage and Divorce Professionals at http://discernmentcounseling.com.
Senior Policy Advisor