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Marriages On The Cusp
are three general scenarios that bring couples to counselling. There are those
couples that are jointly committed to the relationship and are seeking
improvement. There are those couples that are jointly seeking to dissolve the
relationship and are seeking to manage the process of change. There are those
couples where one is committed to the relationship and the other is not.
is this latter scenario that can be fraught with the greatest difficulty in
managing feelings and determining the direction of the relationship. In this
last scenario, it is not uncommon to see one partner present as committed and
the other as ambivalent. Underneath the ambivalence may be a desire to attend
therapy, not to maintain the relationship, but to find a safe place to end it.
Hence there may be contrary goals where the outcome is the inevitable end of the
relationship despite interventions aimed at improvement or reconciliation.
in this scenario can still be of benefit.
a relationship through counselling provides opportunity to manage the process in
a manner that can reduce hostility and conflict. The parties have the
opportunity to receive guidance and direction prior to anger and upset taking
over as a driving force in their judgment or decision-making. By virtue of both
persons working with the same person, settlements may be achieved. Counsellors
understand the nature of conflict and distress and help couples work through
when couples see individual counsellors or respective lawyers, greater conflict
may result. By each party seeing their own respective support person
(therapeutic or legal) it can increase the likelihood of having their version of
events and position reinforced and differences magnified. The support person is
only privy to the one side and does not have the opportunity to develop a
balanced view. Also the opportunity to help parties resolve matters between
themselves together is non-existent when each goes off in different directions.
couples entering counselling due to conflict have the opportunity to work their
relationship through the entire counselling process. Even though feelings may be
high and persons upset or even feeling betrayed, remaining with the counsellor
can provide for a better outcome in terms of untangling the relationship and
matters arising – particularly where children are concerned.
on the level of conflict and in ending a relationship, parties may feel exposed
without a lawyer to advise them along the way. In these situations, legal input
can be helpful. A reasonable lawyer can provide input to assure that the
direction of settlement is appropriate and that certain rights or expectations
are addressed. Final agreements can be set in writing and made contractual.
terms of what is best for children, it tends to be less what the agreement is,
than how it was achieved and the degree of conflict between the parties.
good counselling outcome then, when the relationship doesn’t work, is where
the parties can dissolve the relationship amicably and reasonably and transition
as smoothly as possible to a new way of life that balances competing needs and
approach is not necessarily available to everyone and often is unworkable in
situations of outright abuse or serious mental illness. However, counselling may
be the best first start to the situation, particularly for a marriage on the
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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