Second Guessing Divorce?

Second Guessing Your Decision to Divorce?
By Theresa Herring, LMFT

It’s completely normal to second guess your decision to divorce. Many people who start the divorce process have some level of ambivalence, uncertainty, or regret. Perhaps you feel guilty for not trying harder to “work things out” or wish that you could stay together (and be happy!) for your kids. Maybe you would stay together if you could guarantee that things got better. Perhaps you still have some hope that things will change and that this could be the person that you grow old with.

Whatever your thoughts are about it, uncertainty and ambivalence make a challenging situation even harder. Because it’s such an emotional process, it can help to gain greater clarity and confidence about your decision. While many people grapple with these things on their own, discernment counseling is a hugely successful option for helping couples in gaining clarity, confidence, and a deeper understanding of what happened in the marriage and each person’s contributions.

Discernment Counseling: Helping Couples on the Brink of Divorce

Couples who complete discernment counseling feel like they have more clarity about their relationship and the future of their marriage. They feel confident in the decision they made about which path to take. In addition, they leave discernment counseling having a greater understanding about what happened in the marriage, each person’s contributions, and what they need to change to move forward (together or separately).

What is Discernment Counseling?

Discernment counseling is research-backed approach to working with couples on the brink of divorce. It is a brief treatment approach – one to five sessions –with the goal of helping couples gain clarity and confidence on their decision about the future of their relationship based on a greater understanding of what happened in their marriage and each person’s role in it. This makes it completely different than couples therapy (where the goal is improving the relationship and requires both people to be invested in that goal to work).

While you both come to sessions together, most of the work is done one-on-one with the discernment counselor. During your one-on-one time with the discernment counselor, you will explore your options and your role in what’s happened to the marriage. At the end of the discernment counseling process you will have made a decision about which path to take.

Choosing a Path in Discernment Counseling

Part of gaining clarity and confidence is examining your options. Through discernment counseling, couples choose one of three paths. Path one is “status quo” continuing on as you have been. Path two is pursuing (or continuing with) divorce. And path three is taking divorce off the table for *six months* and during that time committing to couples therapy to see if you can improve the relationship.

There is no right or wrong path. The discernment counselor is not emotionally invested in saving the relationship or in having you two divorce. We do, however, challenge you to really explore your options and your role in the relationship. Because, at the end of the day, you can’t divorce yourself.

Who Should Do Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling is for couples where both partners have some level of ambivalence in divorcing. It is designed for couples who have mixed agendas (one person wants to save the marriage and the other person is leaning towards ending it). For these couples it works great and helps them gain confidence, clarity, and understanding.

It is not for couples where one or both partners are 100% committed to divorcing. It also won’t work if there is active violence and/or coercion in the relationship. And it’s not the right option when both of you are committed to working on the marriage. If you both want to work on the relationship, you should try couples therapy instead.

Theresa Herring is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Evanston, IL. Her specialty is working with parenting couples who feel like they’re more like roommates than partners. For more information about her practice (and discernment counseling), visit her website