Couples with Children on the Brink of Divorce: Marriage Therapy

Because getting a divorce will end a marriage, but not a family, some divorcing couples with children are opting for couple therapy. Often one spouse is interested in keeping the marriage together, while the other has a sliver of hope for the marriage, but both want to enhance the quality of communication for the sake of the children after the divorce. One of the biggest challenges with such couples comes from the level of anger stemming from months, years, or decades of dissonance. Often one or both spouses come in expecting the therapist to fix or show measurable progress within a matter of several sessions. The reality is that it takes time for trust to develop amongst the three people in the room, and only when trust is there can the most significant progress be made. This leads to the question of what can you request and do to increase the odds that you will either help the marriage or help the communication for the child(ren).

It is important to keep an active dialogue with the therapist around how you are feeling about the process. For example, if you do feel patient and confident in the process, then the therapist can plant seeds of insight that can later sprout as the process goes on. Though not a fast process, it leads toward a level of insight that can result in highly useful intervention. Even on the brink of divorce, and regardless of the level of anger, hurt, disappointment, etc., almost anything can be accomplished with enough time and effort on all sides.

If you feel impatient, but willing to do a lot of work between sessions, it can be quite helpful to put a time limit on the therapy. For instance, you can say to the therapist that you would like to accomplish as much as possible within five sessions. Do include a specific goal to be met. This keeps the focus narrow enough to get somewhere in a short period of time so that you can see measurable results. The therapist can use, for example, a brief therapy model involving giving many suggestions, with the idea that at least one may help your situation.

Brief therapy is most effective when people are willing to follow through on suggestions. Examples of what a therapist might suggest include a recommendation to get evaluations or therapy for anxiety, developmental disorders, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc…. Specific tasks (nuances not included here) can be to go out to dinner and to only talk about positive traits of each other, listening exercises, prayer, mutual meditation, couple relaxation exercises, couple eye gazing with positive self-talk for ten minutes per day, or even complain about each other in a controlled manner. It is also key to avoid self-fulfilling prophecies (being so sure that nothing will change that your actions or inactions make your prophecy come true!), or you can easily sabotage even the most appropriate interventions for you as a couple.

If there has been a history of trouble getting on the same page about parenting, doing a few Behavioral Family Therapy (creating a behavioral plan involving a different way of parenting, based on your family’s unique characteristics) sessions can produce not only effective change for your child(ren). It can also do the same for your marriage, because working together and seeing each other do well can have a profound effect on how you interact with your spouse.

For more information, go to: http://www.SchaperowPsychologyCenter.com

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