Path One: Staying the Course

You’re not happy in your marriage, but it’s not bad enough to divorce. Did you know that, for some couples, staying the course and deciding at a later time is the best choice?

Getting Along, but Not Making an Effort

“How did your marriage get to the point where divorce is an option?” I asked Rose and Tim, a couple in their mid-thirties. They looked at me as if I wanted them to explain the origin of the universe.

“Nothing terrible happened,” said Tim. “We get along fine and hardly ever fight.” Rose nodded in assent. “We’re great as a family,” Tim continued. “But together, we just don’t have much in common anymore. I haven’t cheated and I won’t, but I feel like something is missing.”

Rose said, “Tim is a great dad to our two boys, and a good husband. I know it’s not the most exciting marriage, but things change once kids come along. I don’t want to lose Tim, and I certainly don’t want to be a single parent.”

The couple came for Discernment Counseling (DC) at Tim’s request. They had tried traditional marriage counseling, but stopped after a few months because they weren’t making progress. Both admitted they weren’t putting forth the effort. “The counselor gave us homework, but neither of us made time to do it,” said Tim.

Rose added, “We liked the idea of date nights, but getting babysitters is a hassle. Then, when we were able to get out, we wanted to do different things.”

Staying the Course: Why Wait to Decide?

Couples who get along well but don’t make progress in therapy can be confusing to marriage counselors. On the surface, these couples seem like easy cases. But, they can prove the most frustrating because they transact well and genuinely care about one another. When they present for couple’s counseling, the therapist assumes both partners want the marriage to improve. Therapy stalls when underlying ambivalence isn’t addressed and at least one partner lacks the energy needed to move the relationship forward.

Low-energy couples who get along well may be good candidates for staying the course and revisiting the fate of their marriages at a later time.

Tim acknowledged in our individual time that he has developed interests that exclude Rose, but doesn’t want to split up the family. In our second DC session, he decided he would like to stay the course until the kids are older, and reassess the marriage at a future point. He felt confident he could remain committed to the marriage as long as he was able to enjoy his hobbies.  Rose agreed to this, since enough of her needs are met via family activities and her own interests. Both expressed relief that the pressure to decide had been lifted, and the door is open to return to DC in the future, if desired.

Other Reasons for Staying the Course

Good-enough relationships and children at home aren’t the only reasons to make a wait-and-see decision. Couples sometimes agree that one or both would benefit from individual therapy before they are in a position to determine the fate of the relationship. Financial limitations can impact a decision to make the best of the situation for the time being.

Sometimes, doing nothing is doing something. Discernment counseling can help you decide whether it’s time to make a change, or to stay the course.

Do you need help figuring out what to do about your marriage? Contact Linda Hershman today to discuss discernment counseling in Berwyn, PA or Margate, NJ.