Sometimes even the decision to divorce is something to argue about.

You want it. You’ve had it with your relationship, and you’re very unhappy in your marriage. But you haven’t started the divorce process yet. It’s a big step and you want to be sure you’re doing the right thing.

Or you don’t want a divorce. Your spouse is the one who does, and you feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck. You are just trying to cope with the enormity of this threat to your way of life.

Either way, couples on the brink of divorce are undergoing emotionally turbulent times. And if you used to talk to your spouse about issues that concerned you, you can feel even more bereft. Because your spouse is on the opposing side and not an objective observer. And friends and family, while usually well meaning, can sway your decision in ways you may later regret. Because it’s hard for them to be objective, too.

Discernment Counseling for Couples on the Brink

Discernment counseling is not an attempt to repair your marriage or to solve problems in your relationship. It’s to discern whether your issues can be solved and to figure out what your options are. It’s short term counseling with one partner at a time since you each have different agendas. Discernment counseling offers you an objective outsider who can bring clarity to your situation. And shine a bit of light onto what happened in your relationship that brought you to this place.

If you want to save your marriage…

…a discernment counselor will honor your needs. But there may not be a way to change your spouse’s mind about working on the marriage. Nevertheless, you can ask you spouse to consider discernment counseling since it’s not about fixing as much as it is about determining if it is fixable. And you will have an objective third party to help guide you. This is a time when you’ve probably been through every emotion from denial to anger to fear and even panic. After all, divorce would be a big change, and any change of that magnitude is scary.

If you want to end your marriage…

…discernment counseling will help ensure that you go about it the right way. That you have no lingering doubts as to whether you should have given it another college try. And if your spouse is opposed to ending the marriage, they may not be reacting well. They may be clingy or promise to be different when you know in your heart that won’t help. They may be angry and act out—when people are threatened they often don’t behave as well as you or they might wish. To add to all that, you are probably feeling some turmoil, too. It is rocky territory, and likely uncharted by both you and your spouse. A discernment counselor will guide you through while honoring your aspirations.

A divorce can be like a death in the family. It’s the end of hopes and dreams of a life you thought you would have. Coping with the possibility of that is incredibly stressful whether you want to save or leave your marriage. Counseling can help.

Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: