Discernment Counselling For Couples
*** Practice is currently OPEN to new Discernment Counselling clients***
Are You or Your Spouse Considering Separation or Divorce?
Are you at a crossroads in your marriage or relationship, with one foot in and one foot out?
Or, are you desperate to save your marriage and fear it is on the brink of ending?
Perhaps one of you is “leaning out” of the relationship while the other is “leaning in.”
Do you feel stuck in an impossible situation and wish you could find a clear path forward?
If you are leaning out, you may have told your partner that you're deeply unhappy in your relationship. Perhaps you have told them over and over again, and you've finally burned out after trying so hard to be heard. It may be that you wanted to get help a long time ago, before it felt "too late,” and you’ve felt so desperate that you've brought up separation or divorce. Maybe you never imagined you'd find yourself wondering how to tell if your marriage is over, but now, you can't imagine another day living as things are. You may feel that your partner is making things worse and pushing you away by reacting strongly to your concerns, questions, and frustration, whether that means they are lashing out or shutting down. You might feel hopeless and doubt therapy could help or that your spouse could ever change. Whether you’ve started the divorce process or not, you may feel unsure it’s the right step, especially if you still care for your partner and the commitment you made together. Maybe you feel deeply stuck for fear of being blamed for the separation or causing more pain. If deciding on divorce were a simple decision, you likely would have made it by now.
If you are leaning in, you are likely feeling a wide range of intense emotions – from anger and shock to fear and sadness. Maybe your partner has told you that they want a divorce or you suspect that they are considering leaving. You may be trying to change your spouse’s mind but feel as though you can’t communicate effectively or express yourself without it leading to a fight, tears, or silence. At the same time, you feel unable to calm yourself, even though you know your increasingly frantic efforts to avoid separation are pushing your partner away. Or perhaps you're distancing yourself and hoping for the best, avoiding your partner’s efforts to talk. You may feel quite alone as you wait on eggshells for your spouse's decision. You might wish that your partner would just try couples therapy and feel confused about why they won't give it this one last try. Maybe you're ready to do whatever it takes to save your marriage or relationship.
Or, maybe both you and your partner are leaning out, but find that you feel stuck and unable to make a final decision. Maybe there is still a small spark between you that keeps you hanging onto a shred of hope. Maybe you're struggling to take action that may cause pain to your children, your partner, or other loved ones.
For most couples in long-term relationships or marriages, there are no quick and easy answers about what to do. Whether you’re leaning in or leaning out, you may feel overwhelmed by the weight of this decision and unsure where to turn for compassionate support and guidance.
Deciding On Whether To Stay Together or Separate is a Process, Not an Event
It's very common for couples to wait quite some time before reaching out for help. There are many reasons for this, including one partner refusing to attend couples therapy and stigma about therapy. As many as 30 percent of couples who seek couples therapy are what is called "mixed agenda" couples, in which one person is leaning out of the marriage and the other is leaning in, hopeful that the marriage can be saved. In these cases, both partners are in great despair and struggling to manage complicated feelings in different ways.
Even when a couple decides to separate, that doesn’t mean the choice was clear, clean and final. Among couples who have filed for divorce, as many as 40 percent are mixed agenda, with one partner still hoping to save the marriage. Additionally, up to 40 percent of divorced people have regrets about deciding on divorce, often because they feel they (and their partner) didn't try hard enough to make the marriage work. Thankfully, there is a way for you and your partner to make sure there are no rocks left unturned and things unexpressed. Discernment counseling is a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at all of your options for your marriage or relationship before you commit to a path forward.
Discernment Counselling Can Help You Gain Clarity and Feel Confident That You Are Making the Right Choice
The primary goal of Discernment Counselling (DC) is for each of you to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your relationship or marriage problems, but instead to see if they are solvable. I will help you decide whether to:
Commit to couples counselling for one last effort, with separation and divorce off the table. After that work, you reassess the future of the relationship.
Move toward separation or divorce.
Or, take a time out and decide later.
As a certified Discernment Counsellor, I create a holding environment where you and your partner can safely and thoroughly explore your options as you make what is likely one of the most important decisions in your life. In sessions, you will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your relationship at the moment. There is no "good partner, bad partner" in this process. You are both likely in pain, albeit in different ways, and the pain that you are experiencing will be valued and heard.
As we work together, I will:
Respect your reasons for separation while seeing if it's possible to restore your relationship to health.
Help you both identify your own contributions to the relationship or marriage problems, as well as possible solutions.
Offer you nonjudgmental guidance and support as you express your fears, hopes, and needs.
Help you truly hear what the other is saying.
To benefit from DC, you don't have to be sure that you want to leave the marriage and you don't have to be sure that you want to work on it. There is no pressure to commit to any given path at the moment (although it is important that neither of you feel absolutely certain that you want a divorce). Discernment counselling offers guided space and time for thoughtful consideration of all of your options to help you make the best decision about the future of your relationship.
It is possible for you to feel more settled and confident about your next steps, whether to make one last effort in couples therapy to restore your relationship to health, or to move forward with separation or divorce. You can make the best decision for you and your relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many sessions will we meet? Do we always attend together?
We will meet for up to 5 discernment counselling sessions. In each appointment, I will help you decide whether it would be helpful to come in for another discernment counselling appointment. There is no commitment in the process beyond one session at a time.
The first appointment is 2 hours and subsequent appointments are 1.5 or 2 hours. Each session consists of time with the three of us together and time for me to meet with each of you individually. Both partners come in for each appointment, and the most important work occurs in the one-to-one conversations with me. You are each starting out in different places, and I will work differently with you because of this. And, I will not pick sides. I am here to help you make the best possible decision for your relationship and your future.
What's the difference between marriage counselling and discernment counselling?
Marriage counselling is appropriate when both partners are committed to actively working on the relationship. DC is appropriate when there is significant ambivalence or uncertainty in one or both partners about the future of the relationship. Marriage counselling is about working to bring about change. DC is about working to see if both of you want to try to bring about change or want to move in a different direction.
When is Discernment Counselling not appropriate?
Discernment Counseling is not appropriate in the following situations:
• When one spouse has already made a final decision to divorce
• When one spouse is coercing the other to participate or when there is danger of violence
What if my partner won't attend?
There is hope in this case! Hopeful Spouse Counselling is for people whose partner has said they want a separation or divorce or are seriously leaning towards separation/divorce but do not want to participate in any kind of counselling as a couple. The goal of Hopeful Spouse Counseling is to support your desire to save your relationship by helping you learn from this crisis and engage in healthy, constructive ways to restore your relationship, if possible.
Take a Step Towards Clarity and Confidence Today.
I invite you to call me at (416) 931-0690 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. We can discuss any questions you have about Discernment Counselling and my practice in Oakville, ON.