Should you try marriage counseling first before moving forward with a separation or divorce?
When your marriage is on the rocks and you don’t see a way out, it’s easy to fall into the idea that divorce is the best option for your future. But choosing marriage counseling before you pull the plug can yield surprising benefits, as the counselors and staff at Mariposa Center have seen firsthand.
Why Marriage Counseling is Worth a Try Before Divorce
Married couples who are facing challenges may think that divorce is the best solution because it’s the only one they are aware of. A partner who is the child of divorce, for example, may see divorce as the best option for a troubled marriage because of how they grew up.
However, to paraphrase another bit of mental health advice, divorce is a permanent solution to what could be a temporary problem. If you choose to end your marriage without at least trying to solve your problems with a professional’s help, you may find yourself living with guilt and regret over what could have been.
Before we continue, however, an important note: if your partner is abusive or violent, marriage counseling or couples therapy may not be the right choice. In fact, attempting to validate this behavior through counseling could be dangerous for you or other family members. In these cases, individual counseling that includes a safety plan is usually a better course.
Marriage Counseling First (But Not Forever)
Struggling couples may find that a short-term stint in counseling can solve the issues they are facing without resorting to drastic changes like separation or divorce.
According to research published by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, marriage counseling is rarely a long-term commitment. In fact, almost 90% of marriage counseling engagements are concluded after 50 sessions, or about a year if you meet with a therapist weekly, and nearly two-thirds require just 20 sessions.
Given these statistics, married couples who enter therapy with defined goals and a defined time period to work on them may feel less intimidated and more willing to put forth their best effort in the time allotted.
If your marriage is struggling, entering couples counseling sooner rather than later can make a big difference.
For example, one study published by the American Psychologists Association found that married couples wait an average of six years before seeking therapy. Failing to address relationship problems for this long can entrench negative communication patterns to the point that therapy cannot untangle them effectively.
On that note, it’s important to point out that even if marriage counseling is a positive experience that creates healthier interactions, it’s not a cure-all. Couples therapy can’t guarantee that your relationship will be problem-free after your sessions are complete.
In fact, additional research has found that a significant percentage of married couples who went through counseling still divorced within four years. In some cases, the role of the therapist is to help a couple realize that they are actually incompatible and that moving on from the relationship would be best for everyone involved.
Why Couples Choose Mariposa Center for Marriage Counseling
Since 1977, Mariposa Center has helped couples and families improve communication and problem-solving skills as part of their healing journey. We offer both in-person and virtual counseling options as a non-profit assisting Southern California communities that are often underserved by mental wellness providers. Mariposa counselors also offer gender-specific sessions for partners who need additional support outside of marriage counseling.
“Marriage counseling and couples therapy is a learned skill that requires an understanding of interpersonal relationships, not just personal feelings or perspective. One of the reasons that marriage counseling can work is because a trained professional can offer tips and strategies that couples who are ‘in the thick of it’ may not have been aware of.”Krista Driver, LMFT; President & CEO, Mariposa Center
As we mentioned above, even if divorce is the outcome of a struggling marriage, engaging with a therapist is one of the best possible ways to find clarity in your relationship and move forward confidently.