With no new ideas, divorce seems like the only solution. Discernment Counseling was designed with you in mind. It’s a new way of making decisions in your relationship. Even if your relationship ultimately ends in divorce, skills learned in Discernment Counseling carry on. Nothing is wasted.
Discernment Counseling is a new way of helping couples. Usually one person is “leaning out” of the relationship—and not sure that regular marriage counseling would help–and the other is “leaning in”—that is, interested in rebuilding the marriage. Sometimes both people are leaning in or out. The structure and techniques in Discernment Counseling guarantee clarity and a deliberate path forward.
How is Discernment Counseling different?
I’m pro-marriage – but only if both parties are in and working towards health. Discernment Counseling aids you and your partner gain traction on the process and explore a new path for reconciliation. It’s about making decisions, not changes. Learn about yourself and what parts would need to change in this or another relationship. Couples counseling is only on the table if both of you are willing to do something different.
The goal of discernment counseling is to help couples gain greater clarity and confidence with the direction of the relationship. Maybe you want to save your marriage. Keep the family intact for the kids. Maybe you’re dealing with addiction, affairs, or abuse or have simply fallen out of love. This short-term, intensive process of 1- 5 session(s) will add complexity as well as resolve to the issue.
What kind of Leaning Out partner are you?
If you’re the Leaning Out partner, you may have lost hope for the future of your marriage. Couples counseling never worked. Maybe you’ve already asked for a divorce or are separated. It’s natural to be ambivalent about a big decision. If you’re not 100% decided, the best option is to get more information. There are three general emotional styles or attitudes with the Leaning Out partner.
1. Divorce as liberation.
Longing to be free of your marriage, you may dream of a future life. It doesn’t even matter how realistic the dream is or is not because you know it’s got to be better than now.
Perhaps you’re having an affair and even still have good feelings about your partner. Maybe there’s someone waiting in the wings for you to end it.
There’s less pressure in this stance because you’ve got one foot already out and there’s little engagement with your marital dissatisfaction. You don’t even fight! You likely spend little time with your partner and don’t think it will be that big a deal to split.
This emotional style tends to have unrealistic expectations for the down stream life after divorce.
2. Divorce as relief.
You don’t necessarily want a divorce but don’t know what else to do to stop the fighting, the tense atmosphere, and the emotional drain on you.
You may have tried everything but nothing has worked to make things better. Surely even the kids will feel relieved as well.
The relationship is stifling; a heavy burden you carry. Disagreements leave you feeling stuck, picked on, and the changes aren’t coming fast enough. You just want to escape.
Your partner may be pressuring you with pursuit, talking to friends and family, scolding you, and creating an atmosphere of greater tension and fear about getting divorced.
This emotional style tends to make hasty decisions to relieve the pressure they perceive from their partner.
3. Divorce as reluctant
Worn out and tired, you don’t want out but you can’t see different future. You have no illusions that divorce will be better but it seems like the only solution.
Even though you’re concerned about finances and how it would affect the kids, you can’t see a solution that would allow you to stay married.
You need support but don’t have the energy to reach out. What difference would it make anyhow?
Read or listen to the audiobooks from 6 Must Have Books for Couples on the Brink of Divorce.
Try one session of Discernment Counseling and see what changes.
Check out the services page to see if sessions or an intensive workshop is right for you and your relationship.
This emotional style needs clarity to make real changes.
Hear more from the founder of
Discernment Counseling, Dr. Bill Doherty
Dr. Laura L. Walsh is trained in the Discernment Counseling method of decision making. She’ll help you decide whether to try to restore your marriage to health, move toward divorce, or take a time out and decide later.
Losing Hope or Falling Out of Love
With how your marriage has gone, it seems your partner doesn’t get you. They don’t try to see problems from your point of view and become defensive when you bring up issues. Single friends seem to have it made and the romance of this kind of life is a draw. But what if your partner changed in meaningful ways?
It’s tempting to blame problems on your marriage but that hasn’t gotten you anywhere. Your partner does the same. As the initiator to the discussion about splitting, you’ve got a lot of power. The key is to make a clear assessment of the situation. Since you can’t divorce yourself, there may be some blind spots. You’re at risk of carrying the same baggage into the next relationship. Discernment Counseling helps you gather the facts so you can confidently make a deliberate decision about your future.
If the love is gone that doesn’t mean it’s over. We often assume that the person we marry will stay the same over the course of decades. But it would be a tragedy if we didn’t evolve. In fact, I’d say we can’t help but change. If you look back, you may see that you’ve had multiple relationships with the same person throughout the course of your marriage. You can fall in love again with your partner but it must be someone you’d choose as your current self because you’ve changed too.
Something Has to Change
Staying married means embracing change. It becomes one of the many ‘glues’ that hold two people together. Despite what culture teaches us, there is no standard marriage. It is defined by whatever agreement the two people decide. It is negotiated and renegotiated again and again.
You know something has to change but what? How? If you decide to work on the marriage, that’s the job of couples counseling. Discernment Counseling is about deciding whether change is possible and if you want to change. It’s about discovering new insights about yourself and your contributions to where you are now. It’s a decision on changing what you can, accepting what’s out of your control, and whether it can make a difference for the future of your marriage.
Myths About Marriage and Divorce
Myth: Kids want their parents to divorce when there’s a lot of conflict and tension.
Truth: Kids want their parents together and prefer the known to the unknown. They want their lives to stay the same familiar routine, even if they’re dealing with a lot. As parents, we’re teaching them about relationships all the time. The question then becomes, “What kind of model for relationships do I want to teach my kids?”
Myth: Marriage to the ‘right’ person is effortless.
Truth: All relationships, from family, friendships, work, and community to marriage are work in some form. There’s a social/emotional bank account where ideally, both people make deposits and withdrawals. We work to make deposits but we also have to work to receive from others. Choosing who you invest with is important. However, similar values and contributions are generally more important than an emphasis on shared hobbies.
Myth: Marriage to the ‘wrong’ person is the root of all your troubles.
Truth: The concept of a ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ match is fundamentally subjective. What makes someone wrong or right for us is also dependent on how flexible and willing we are to mutually compromise. If you were to ask 10 people what made a romantic partner a good match, you’d likely get little overlap – unless all 10 people shared the same values. There are general categories of compatibility with wide variation of the course of your lifetime.
Myth: Once a cheater, always a cheater. You should divorce after an affair.
Truth: If the underlying dynamics that led to the affair are not addressed, this issue will likely continue. Loneliness and disconnection in a relationship is an issue for both people. An affair is a destructive way to cope these problems. However, if both people in the marriage are committed to regaining connection, an affair does not have to mean the end. Research actually shows that most marriages continue after affairs. The ones that thrive develop conscious methods for maintaining connection.
Curious about how a Leaning In partner thinks and feels? Check out the article: Are you the Leaning In partner?
Is Change Possible? You Decide.
The bottom line is if you’re still married, there is hope if you decide to pursue it. Relationships are deeply personal and there’s no clear answer for so many questions. Experience is usually the best teacher but not always. If you need more clarity and the confidence to break free of ambivalence about important decisions in your life, I can help. Give Discernment Counseling a try. We schedule one session at a time with a maximum of 5 to take advantage of the decision making process. Contact me to schedule a complimentary consultation.
What do you want and need?
It can be difficult to figure out what makes you happy – especially beyond your relationship. In the Discernment Counseling process, the focus is on learning about yourself and what parts would need to change in this or another relationship. The sweet spot for working on change is not accommodations to your spouse – it’s aspects of self that are barriers to having a mutually intimate relationship in which both people are well defined individuals with boundaries.
A marriage is on the rocks is a sign the balance is off. Restoring this balance is risky but the rewards are high. Balance in a healthy, nurturing, and fulfilling relationship requires both partners to give and receive – to make both deposits and withdrawals from the emotional bank account between you.
What’s In It for Me?
Identifying patterns where you’ve contributed to the strain is the trickiest part for Leaning Out partners. Maybe you’re thinking, “What are you talking about, my part??” Learning to see where you have influence or control and where you don’t can be very empowering. It means you can do something to improve your circumstances. Acquiring this skill is important whether or not you stay in the marriage. You must be flexible enough to be influenced by others. This means putting aside your belief that you know the score and can accurately predict the future. Change isn’t possible unless we believe in it. You can start by recognizing the small things in both yourself and the relationship.
The work on yourself is an investment in all of your relationships. Take a step back and evaluate your life. Is this how you want to live? Are you happy? Your natural inclination may be to answer with, “No! My marriage is crumbling!” but that’s not what I mean. Are you satisfied with your work? Do you take care of yourself, have hobbies, your own friends, and like or even love yourself? If you’re living a life that is less than satisfactory to you, that’s where we begin.
Big decisions are hard.
You’ve come to a crossroads and it’s time to make some decisions. To confidently move forward, you need clarity to take the next steps. Assisted by a licensed clinical psychologist, this short-term, specialized process of 1- 5 sessions gives you the wisdom and insight you’ve needed to break free of ambivalence.
If your marriage is on the rocks, I can help. Contact me for a free phone consultation to see if Discernment Counseling is right for you and your relationship.
Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel
I Love You, but I’m Not IN Love with You: Seven Steps to Saving Your Relationship by Andrew G. Marshall
I Wish I Knew This Before My Divorce: Ending the Battle Between Holding On and Letting Go by Elaine O. Foster PhD and Joseph W. Foster