Thinking About Separation?

Many couples get to a 'stalemate' in their relationship and decide to separate. Often couples will separate without structure to the separation which can lead to more conflict and contempt in the relationship. Separation can be helpful if there are guidelines to the separation.  This is called a 'Controlled Separation.' A controlled separation is a plan that opens the door to frank discussions that set the stage for decision making regarding the relationship.  Couples that agree to a controlled separation usually see this as a last ditch effort to make or break their marriage.  The physical separation gives you time to clear your head. Once the physical separation has settled, you and your partner will discuss where you are going in your relationship.

A Controlled Separation Contract is a tool that is used by couples to help make sense of their relationship dilemma.  Without the structure of a Controlled Separation Contract, a separation has no purpose or clear meaning.  In the book "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", Lee Raffel describes the difference between a Controlled Separation and a Trial Separation:

Controlled Separation:

1. Couple or therapist guided structured plan

2. Well-defined guidelines

3. Oral or written contract

4. Predetermined time frame

5. Agreement to be advocates

6. Open communication

7. Safety net (no-divorce clause)

8. More confident partners

9. Actively doing your best

10. Closure with relief


Trial Separation:

1. "Fly by the seat of your pants" with no plan

2. No guidelines

3. No contract

4. No time limits

5. Adversarial posture

6. Evasive communication

7. No safety net

8. Confused and insecure partners

9. Worst fears accelerate

10. Closure with remorse

In order for a separation to be productive, it is important that a couple has a shared goal of the separation and has defined time limits.  It is also important to negotiate other issues such as legal counsel, dating others, living arrangements, child care, finances, etc.  

If you are interested in developing a Controlled Separation for your marriage, call us today!

Should We Even Attempt Marriage Counseling?

Are you considering marriage or couples therapy, but don't know if it's too late to save your relationship? Often, people don't know if they want to continue in a relationship or if it's time to end things. The decision is just one more thing that you have to do. If you are trying to decide between trying to make things work or ending the relationship, you are not alone.

We know that, on average, problems impact a relationship for six years before a couple seeks outside help. The research also shows that by the time a couple seeks help about 30% of those couples are 'mixed agenda couples'. Mixed agenda couples come into therapy with different goals for the therapy process.  Frequently in these relationships, one person is 'leaning in' (wanting to fix it) and the other is 'leaning out' (not knowing if they even want to work on the relationship). Sometimes you have two people leaning out, unsure if they want to continue. 

If this sounds like your relationship, Discernment Counseling is designed for you.  Discernment Counseling is a chance to slow down, take a breath, and look at goal-oriented options for your relationship. Discernment Counseling is different from typical marriage/relationship therapy in significant ways. While traditional relationship therapy is helpful for couples where both individuals are motivated to work at making changes in the relationship, Discernment Counseling is intended to help with the unique dynamics in the leaning in/out relationship. The therapist will help you decide whether to try to restore your marriage back to health, move toward divorce, or take a time to decide later.  

Unlike typical relationship therapy, Discernment Counseling is short-term and takes place for 1-5 sessions. After each session you will decide if you wish to attend another. The goal is for you to gain clarity and confidence about a direction in your relationship, based on a deeper understanding of your specific situation and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your marital problems but to see if they are solvable.

The Center for Relationship and Sexual Wellness is pleased to offer this unique, specialized service.  As the only certified Discernment Counselor in North Dakota and greater Minnesota, I can help you explore the relationship paths. To learn more about Discernment Counseling click here or give us a call.

What is Discernment Counseling?

If you have taken some time to look around on my website, you may have come upon the information regarding Discernment Counseling. The goal of Discernment Counseling is for you and your partner to gain clarity and confidence about a direction, based on a deeper understanding of your relationship and its possibilities for the future. The goal is not to solve your marital/relationship problems but to see if they are solvable. You will each be treated with compassion and respect no matter how you are feeling about your marriage or relationship at the moment.

Appropriate for:  

  • Those considering divorce but are not completely sure if it's the right path for them.

  • Those who want to give their marriage another chance even though their spouse is moving toward divorce.

  • Those who have tried couples/marriage therapy before, yet are still stuck in the same situation and are thinking about making a change to leave the relationship.

Not appropriate for:

  • A relationship where there is danger of domestic violence

  • If there is an Order For Protection (OFP) from the court

  • One spouse has made a final decision to divorce and wants counseling to encourage the other spouse to accept their decision

  • One spouse is coercing the other to participate

How is this different than couples counseling/marriage therapy?

  • I will help you explore one of three paths for your relationship:

    • Path 1: Stay married the way your marriage has been - No change.

    • Path 2: Move toward separation or divorce.

    • Path 3: Work on reconciling by committing to an all-out effort of couples counseling over a six month period with divorce completely off of the table.

Watch this video to learn more!

Considering Divorce?

Research shows that couples wait about 6 years into an unhappy relationship before considering professional help. By that time, many couples are on the verge of divorce.  In a study published by the Family Court Review, 30% of people going through a divorce said they would seriously consider reconciliation if it was offered by the court.

A new approach to therapy has evolved, called "Discernment Counseling." Discernment Counseling IS NOT marriage counseling.  It is a structured process that helps couples gain greater clarity and confidence in their decision making regarding divorce, and allows them to be better equipped to understand their prospects for reconciliation.  Below is an article published by the Wall Street Journal, discussing the benefits of Discernment Counseling.  The Center for Relationship and Sexual Wellness is the ONLY mental health center in the region to offer this innovative process!