If you are struggling with your marriage, do you need a therapist or a lawyer? The lawyer seems like the easy way out, but it can be costly in terms of emotion and money. There are lawyers that try to help the couple, rather than being combative, (See “The Good Divorce” page) but you have to look hard for them.
A counselor or therapist with the right orientation can help you stay married. You might think all therapists are intent on keeping couples together, but that is not the case. Some therapists are so focused on helping the individual end their pain that they encourage one partner to file for divorce.
Couples therapists are committed to the relationship itself, and believe that divorce is only the solution of last resort. Instead, they believe that marriage is a skill that needs to be taught. Most of our learning comes from growing up watching our parents work through their relationships. It’s kind of like learning to drive by watching accidents.
All relationships seem to start out the same way: with love, optimism and a fantasy of what it will be like. We find ourselves attracted to someone, the hormones start flowing, and before we know it we’re in love. There is perhaps no better feeling than this. Nature wants us to feel this way so that we can keep the human race going. And society encourages us to marry, in order to provide a safe structure for the children to come.
It’s the fantasy part that trips us up. We get the fantasy from our parents, films, advertising, and novels. Everyone’s dream is unique and probably impossible to achieve.
And the divorce statistics prove it: more than 50% of first marriages fail, and the rate for re-married couples is worse. Fewer people are getting married: the rate has dropped from 69% thirty years ago to 51% now.
So… is divorce the only answer? As couples therapists, we believe that couples can learn new ways to respond to each other. Relationship skills can be taught, and that includes how to fight successfully.
And take a look at the following articles that deal with the benefits of being married, how to have a “good divorce” if one becomes necessary, and other related topics.