The best recommendation that I can make for couples whose marriages are spiraling downward is to seek couples’ counseling immediately. Choose a therapist with whom you both feel comfortable, even if it means interviewing two or three therapists before deciding which one to work with. You owe it to yourselves (and to your children, if you have them) to do everything possible to save the marriage before making a decision to separate or divorce.
Many couples whose marriages are in trouble have devoted only a fraction of their time to working on their relationships; they seem to hope that the problems will just take care of themselves, and they’re baffled that their marriages are in such disrepair. I draw a pie for couples and ask them to fill in the pieces of the pie to indicate the percentage of time that they devote to their marital relationships compared to time given to their work and children. Every couple that I have worked with has drawn a sliver of the pie, indicating that they devote approximately 15% of their time to the marriage, while the majority of their time is devoted to their work and their children. One couple had not gone out on a “date” in four years, not even to dinner or a movie, even though money was not an issue. When I ask these couples what they think would happen to their jobs or their children if they spent as little time on those endeavors as they currently spend on their marriages, they say things like, “we’d lose our jobs,” or “our kids would be out in the street or taken away from us!”
Marriage is a work in progress. Couples’ counseling for a troubled marriage is a positive first step in the process.
Karen Grais Meyer is a licensed clinical social worker with Counseling Connection; she practices in Lake Bluff and Highland Park, Illinois.