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What I Believe About Marriage and Divorce

    I often work with couples who are on the brink of divorce. In those cases, the counseling I offer is often referred to as discernment counseling--working with couples to help them decide if divorce is the only option, versus working on their relationship for 3-6 months to see if it can be healed and restored.  Based on my training with the Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota, these are the principles by which I work:

What I Believe About Divorce:

  • Divorce is usually an attempt to solve a problem that people think can't be solved in any other way.
  • Some divorces are necessary in order to prevent further harm in a destructive relationship (emotional and physical abuse, ongoing infidelity, addictions).
  • Some divorces are ultimately unavoidable because one party decides on divorce despite the wishes of the other party.
  • Some people  behave destructively or emotionally disengaged enough over a long time that they lose their claim on their spouse's commitment.
  • However, many of today's divorces could be prevented if both parties took steps to work on their marriage before it was too late.  

What I Believe About Marriage:

  • Healthy, life-long marriage has unique value for individuals, families and communities.
  • Life-long commitment is especially difficult in today's throwaway, consumer oriented culture.
  • Children have an important stake in the health and endurance of their parents' marriage.
  • Marital commitment brings obligations to work on a troubled marriage before giving up (like, You know, I'm feeling more and more emotional distance and anger in our marriage.  I really need to talk about this with you, maybe even see a counselor to help us. Otherwise, I am concerned about how unhappy I am feeling)

What I Believe About Healing:

  • Human beings have the capacity to move past anxiety, distrust, and hostility and relate to each other from our highest selves (our core values--like compassion, faithfulness, and commitment-- even (or especially) when times are hard).
  • Restoring a marriage must not come at the expense of one of the partners.  Love and fairness must go hand in hand.
  • The key is whether both spouses want to restore the marriage to health.
  • When both spouses devote themselves fully and with proper help to restoring their marriage to health, they can usually make it.

I married you because you gave me a promise.
That promise made up for your faults.
And the promise I gave you made up for mine.
Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise 

that made the marriage.
And when the children were growing up, it wasn't a house 

that protected them;
and it wasn't our love that protected them--it was that promise.

-Thorton Wilder

Always fighting. Older couple fightingUnhappy couple on a couchLack of communication

Being a registrant with Marriage Friendly Therapists means that I agree in principle with that organization’s view about marriage and the practice of therapy, as written in their Values Statement. If interested, you may read this values statement at  My Professional Values

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