When you go to a therapist to sort out your marriage, the last thing you expect is to come back home with a realization that “my therapist told me to leave my husband.” Yet, oddly enough, it is pretty common.
But shouldn’t they let you make your own decisions based on introspection? For example, can a therapist tell you to leave your partner in the first place? Or, is your situation so severe that they have to tell you directly about it?
There is no simple answer since every marriage is unique in its own way. And you should definitely base any life-changing decision on every piece of evidence and facts that you can find, including your feelings deep inside and other people’s advice. Both are valuable.
So, when should you listen to a marriage therapist and file for divorce, and when to think it over? Let’s take a look at the options in detail.
Your therapist probably had reasons to suggest a divorce. Look at your marriage from their perspective. What picture of your husband did you paint for them during the therapy session?
If a marriage therapist asked you to describe your relationship, and your story consisted of only adverse events, they would probably think your marriage isn’t worth saving.
But there are also obvious situations when a therapist may advise to end a relationship.
A therapist’s job is to act in the best interest of their clients. If a person’s life is in danger or the counselor has concerns about children, they will undoubtedly warn their patient of possible dangerous outcomes of toxic relationships.
Physical abuse is the most profound reason to end a marriage. If the aggression progresses from a slap in the face to bruising, it will only get worse in time. Do you want to wait and see how much worse it will be?
If you live in constant fear that your husband will get mad and somehow hurt you or your children, it’s time to leave.
Don’t justify his behavior. “Violence at any level is intentional,” says Susan Murphy-Milano, a violence prevention specialist. “The abuser makes a conscious choice to control your life by using threats, intimidation, isolation, and even force.”
So, if your husband hits you and abuses you from time to time, your therapist is giving good advice by suggesting you get a divorce.
Verbal fights are an unfortunate part of every marriage. According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the sources of marital conflicts can be very diverse, e.g., poor communication in the family, lack of financial resources, infidelity, etc.
Insults and name-calling are destructive for a relationship because they indicate a lack of understanding between spouses. If your spouse shouts at you and does not hesitate to use derogatory words and phrases, then he simply does not respect you.
Such behavior could also occur if your husband witnessed something similar between his parents when he was little. Thus, couples therapy can be of help in these cases.
During the sessions, a therapist will talk to you and your spouse in a calm environment and help you improve your communication style.
If your partner constantly looks down on you, disregards your opinion, or criticizes your appearance, you may start feeling unworthy. The same thing goes for comparing you to other women.
One of the reasons for this behavior is the desire to make the wife feel jealous. These men probably suffer from a lack of attention or love and don’t know a better way to show it.
But if the comparison to the other person (a colleague, a neighbor, etc.) is not in your favor, you won’t be able to tolerate it for long. And you shouldn’t. Figure out where all this comes from.
If their criticism is unfounded, talk to your husband and explain that you hate any comparisons to other women.
But if you think that your partner will keep underestimating you, maybe it’s time to leave and wish him good luck finding someone more suitable to his taste.
Infidelity is one of the most prevailing reasons that relationships don’t work out. According to the Institute for Family Studies, about 20% of men and 13% of women have affairs with more than one person during their marriage.
While some men cheat once and regret it, others do it frequently and don’t feel remorse. So it’s funny when such husbands say, “my wife is seeing a therapist,” and they cannot understand why.
And a man finds out that a psychologist told his wife to divorce him and she listened to the advice, he is enraged.
The truth is, if a woman’s self-esteem is high enough, she will not tolerate cheating or pretend that everything is fine. Sooner or later, she will leave her adulterous spouse for good and finally start a better life.
Additionally, adultery in marriage is the classic Karpman drama triangle. A good therapist will focus on this first and help you break out of this codependency pattern before advising you to end the relationship.
Many spouses believe that kids should live in a two-parent family. As a result, they continue to stay together, although they do not love each other. If you add fights and conflicts to the lack of love, the atmosphere in such a family becomes harmful rather than beneficial for the child’s healthy mental development.
Psychologists have long argued that it is better for children to be in a conflict-free environment than in a family where parents hate each other.
However, for a stay-at-home mom, the choice of whether to divorce or stay is much more complicated.
They hesitate to end their marriage because they are afraid to be left jobless and moneyless. If their spouse is the primary breadwinner, they will have to find a source of income independently, and it can be difficult at first.
Signs of Mental Abuse in a Relationship
Mental abuse may be the reason your therapist told you to leave your husband. Research shows that 12.1% of women suffer psychological abuse. Unfortunately, this form of abuse is rarely reported and is not recognized by others, e.g., friends and relatives.
To the outside world, the married couple can look pretty normal, but, in reality, one of the spouses is unhappy. Surprisingly, not all victims can tell if their spouses abuse them emotionally. So, let’s look at some signals of psychological harassment:
Abuse is not something that a marriage counselor can help with. It’s a highly complex task that only individual therapists can resolve.
If you tell yourself that your husband will change, or he doesn’t mean to harass you, it sounds like self-delusion. Stop fooling yourself - they know exactly what they’re doing. Maybe your therapist recognized the abusive relationship and tried to help you out of it.
Anyway, now you know the signs, and the decision whether to divorce is all yours.
Every marriage has its breaking point, and there is no guarantee that a couple who goes to therapy will turn their unhappy marriage into a great one. The truth is, couples counseling is not a cure for all marriage issues.
“We see therapists on TV who claim they can bring any relationship back to vibrant life,” says the author of “Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay,” Mira Kirshenbaum, Ph.D., “but we know how difficult it is to change even the smallest thing in our relationship.”
If you come to the first session, and your spouse doesn’t seem like cooperating, it could be challenging for a marriage therapist to help you work out your disputes. Some married couples need at least a few visits to start listening to each other.
If there is progress (e.g., the second session is better than the first, and the third session is almost a success), and your spouse can finally hear you out and agree with your point of view, it’s a good sign. It means that the therapy is working.
We all have our idea of a great marriage. As a wife, you probably expect your husband to always be on your side and support you. And, although not all happily married couples live identical lives, a few of the same things are present in their relationships.
Here’s a brief checklist of a healthy relationship.
At the same time, if your marriage is not great at the moment, but was fine before the crisis, don’t rush to end it. Just because you’re going through a phase of disagreements doesn’t mean they will last forever.
And here’s where marriage counseling can be helpful. But it won’t do miracles for your couple if just one person attends it. So, you should take your spouse with you.
What would you advise your friend if they told you something like, “my therapist thinks I should leave my husband”? You would probably tell them not to make snap decisions, especially if you don’t have reasons to believe that their marriage is a bad one.
It’s easy to look at things rationally if you are an outside observer. But when you play the central role in the situation, your judgment is often clouded by emotions. That’s why you need to try and calm down a little and look at your marital issues from a neutral perspective.
Don’t base your decision on what your marriage counselor told you. Remember that therapists are also people. Sometimes, they can’t keep from voicing their personal subjective opinions about your marriage.
Listen to your heart and mind. Imagine yourself living without your spouse. Does it feel good? Does staying married to your husband give you negative emotions? If so, maybe your therapist is right, and you should finally make a tough decision and split.
But if separation sounds somewhat strange to you, don’t hire a divorce lawyer until you figure out your feelings. “It’s an attorney’s job to facilitate a divorce, not to suggest reconciliation,” says marriage therapist Michele W. Davis.
Most lawyers start treating their clients as potential divorcees, making it difficult for them not to think about getting divorced as an ultimate solution.
Consider if the marriage is living up to your expectations. Think about what you dreamed about when you got married. Write down the criteria for a happy (personally for you) life with your husband on a piece of paper. It can contain emotional security, support, financial stability, etc.
Now compare this list with your current relationship. If you’ve gotten most of what you wanted initially, there is still hope to save your marriage.
Talking to a friend or relatives is not the worst idea, but remember that they are biased. Plus, they can only judge the situation from your words.
Consider all pros and cons of leaving your husband and think about your own safety. Then, choose what is best for you, your kids, and your well-being.
Only you can decide what to do with your marriage.
The opinion of a psychologist is undoubtedly important, but do not make it the basis of your choice because it’s you and your family who will have to live with the consequences, not your therapists or lawyers.
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