Divorce And Couples Therapy

If you are getting a divorce or recently divorced, there is a good chance that the both of you went to couples therapy together. If you are reading this, then I am guessing it didn’t work.

But why?

The obvious answer is that the therapist that you went to was just not any good at their job. Some therapists are good with working with couples while others are not. Sometimes a therapist just does not “get the couple” and tries to force solutions to get them back on track that are not appropriate for the situation and needs of the couple.

Worse than that, a therapist or coach, may sometimes pick a side in the situation and that only makes matters worse. If one half a couple feels they are being vilified and beat up by both their partner AND the therapist, you can bet they will stop going to sessions very soon.

In the dynamics of a divorce, there is the dumper or the dumpee, the leaver or the leavee. It is typically the one being dumped or left that begs the other to go to counseling and to seek help as a couple. Ironically, the one doing the leaving or with one foot out the door will agree to go, but not for the reasons you think.

Therapy to them becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. The partner who wants out of the relationship goes and they may participate to a degree in the sessions but in the end the best couples counselor or coach, and the efforts of the spouse who wants to things to work end up failing. The leaver or dumper have already made up their mind on how thing are going to go and by going they are only doing so in order to check off that box before leaving. The partner who wants out is only using the therapy or sessions to justify their reasons for leaving in the end. After all they agreed to go and if it didn’t help then it gives them the ultimate excuse to exit… “We went to therapy together and it didn’t fix anything so the divorce is the only option. I was right…”

Sometimes both partners seem to want to have things become better in the relationship and couples work with a coach or therapist may actually go well for a bit. Both are invested in the process, do the exercises, show up for sessions on time, and for a while things might actually get better and unbelievably so. Then for no reason it would appear one spouse or the other turns again… sessions are missed or need to be rescheduled. While both partners were once open and talkative during the sessions, the one might clam up now and go silent and without warning, everyone is back to square one.

What happens is that the partner in the relationship that stopped “showing up” went only as far as they were emotionally ready and or capable of going. This cycle probably repeated itself continually in your relationship as well. You have a period of blissful peace and everything is going just fine then some crisis occurs by chance or sometimes created intentionally. There is struggle followed by reconciliation of some sort and then peace resumed and things are back to normal. Until the next crisis that is.

Just as it happened within the relationship same thing will play out in therapy.  The one partner hit the wall, and for whatever reason cannot, and will not go further in the process with you. If you looked back on your relationship, you would see that in this cycle, the relationship never deepened nor were greater levels of intimacy achieved. The two of you just kept going in circles and the same pattern can and will show up in therapy, counseling, or coaching. If the partner refuses to work through or past whatever is holding them back such as fear, trauma from past abuse, secrets, or an inability to trust, the therapy will fail and will continue to do so on that same cyclical basis as before.

Before getting a divorce, seeing a professional, be it a coach or therapist who is trained and knowledgeable when it comes to working with couples is never a bad idea. It is important to seek out many referrals and maybe even visit one to two before finding someone to work with. The key ingredient for the process to work is for both parts of a couple to be fully committed to making the relationship work. By commitment, I mean that both have to be fully willing to put the relationship first before any issues or anything else for that matter. Just going to a specialist alone is not a cure-all; it takes work, time, commitment, and a sincere desire on both sides to find solutions and to work things out.

The sad truth is that more often than not couples work fails. Some figures put that failure rate as high as 75%. If this happened to you and if any of the reasons above make sense to you, I hope it helped you to put things into perspective and enabled you to understand what might have happened… If you went and did your best and you know that deep down, allow yourself to know that and move on.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado