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Should I Seek Marital Counseling Before Filing for Divorce?

Despite the fact that we are family law attorneys who some would say, “divorce people for a living,” we always prefer to see couples work on their marriages before choosing to go down the divorce route.  After having represented numerous clients over the years, we are keenly aware of the major aspects that often lead to their demise.  However, when it comes to saving a marriage, it really boils down to the desires of both parties and also, the specific issues that affect it.  Meaning, each party has to ask himself/herself whether they are willing to invest in the work necessary to save the marriage, and also, whether they have faith that it can, in fact, be salvaged. For instance, if one spouse’s infidelity was largely responsible for the breakdown of their marriage, both parties must come to some consensus as to whether they can forgive, forget, and move on.  While not every marriage is reconcilable, we still feel that there are some that are definitely worth trying to save.

Overall, marital counseling in one of the major ways in which couples who are on the fence about getting a divorce, can work out their differences and come together, both emotionally and physically.  A counselor is in the best position to examine the issues affecting the marriage as well as the ways in which each person can work towards improving it.  So, before taking the divorce plunge, it is recommended that you ask yourself the following questions that can help you pinpoint some of the more serious problems in your marriage, and determine whether counseling is even worth it in your case:

Do you and your spouse ignore important issues?

This is likely one of the biggest “no no’s” when it comes to marriages, and sometimes, no amount of marital counseling can effectively “fix” this problem. Specifically, buried feelings and emotions can lead to resentment that can eat away at you and cause conflict later on.  For example, minor annoyances soon turn into major forms of aggravation and anger.  For those dealing with this issue, it is crucial to deal with issues as they arise.  Do not bury them, as they will eventually rear their ugly heads and cause tension, stress and potential marital problems. If this is a situation in your case, you need to determine whether you can be more open-minded moving forward and amenable, through counseling, to address these types of issues head on.  If not, then divorce is probably your only option.

Do you take measures to work on your relationship?

No matter what, a marriage is always a work in progress.  Just like a piano needs tuning, a marriage definitely requires the same attention. Each party must do things to keep the marriage going, and also, have a willingness to consider new and different measures to help keep the marriage from failing.  Counselors are extremely helpful in suggesting in getting willing parties to work on their relationship and not against it.

Do you communicate effectively with each other?

Effective communication is one of the cornerstones of a good marriage.  For couples that try to resolve their issues through blaming the other or through unnecessary accusations, the marriage will not work in the long run.  Learning to communicate with one another through listening and validating each other’s feelings is crucial to making a marriage work. For those on the brink of divorce, it is necessary for them to ask themselves whether they are willing to change their communication style and become both an effective speaker and listener.  Undoubtedly, a counselor, if the parties are amenable, can help them to implement the tools they need to grow in this regard.

Do you spend enough time together?

Between work, kids and other pressing issues, it isn’t surprising that many couples are unable to spend enough meaningful time together.  This may leave people feeling disconnected and distant rather than supported and loved.  If you see this trend happening in your marriage, it is important to act fast and stop it from progressing any further.  This can be accomplished through setting time aside each week, perhaps even an hour or to, just so that you and your spouse can be alone and enjoy each other’s company.  Overall, there is nothing wrong with married couples hiring a babysitter and having a date night once a week, as it could end up saving their marriage.  For marriage counseling to work to help parties carve out some special time together, both parties have to be flexible and willing to take certain steps to facilitate this.

Do you delegate responsibilities?  

As we learned early on in college, sometimes living with people can drive you nuts.  When two people come together in a marriage, it is certainly no different.  For instance, if one spouse likes to clean and the other doesn’t, it makes sense to apportion responsibilities that accommodate for each person’s preferences.  Moreover, if one spouse likes to cook and the other doesn’t, perhaps it is time for them to delegate these responsibilities accordingly.  This way, parties to a marriage do not become resentful over having to take upon jobs that they do not like.  While we all get stuck doing things we do not want to do, at least organizing responsibilities in terms of preference can help reduce conflict and save your marriage. 

Am I committed enough to make changes? 

No matter what, almost every marriage that is on the brink of divorce involves two people, not just one, who made certain mistakes that lead to its near-failure.  The key question at the end of the day that they must answer is whether they are committed to making changes, and willing to work as a team to improve the marriage.  Counseling can help parties in this regard, but they themselves have to have the willpower to want to make things better and prevent the marriage from breaking down.

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