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What To Do When Couples Counselling Doesn't Work

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

couple arguing on couch at home

As we grow and learn throughout our lives, sometimes we find ourselves at odds with the people we care closest to – our partners, husbands, and wives. If we sense a widening distance or a disconnect, going to couples therapy is a recommended solution that often yields promising results. Often, but not always.

There are times when marriage or couples counselling is simply not enough to overcome a rift in a relationship. During these times of extreme stress and emotion, it can be temping to point fingers and assign blame, but the result is the same – the loss of a close friend, a loved one, and a once-common fixture in your life. If you find yourself in this situation, wondering what you should do if couples counselling doesn’t work, here are some important points to remember.

No One Gets Married To Get A Divorce

You and your partner, regardless of the outcome, went into your relationship with the same goals and drifted apart along the way. Neither of you planned for it to happen, nor hoped you would drift apart. You are two different people and sometimes these differences become insurmountable. Choosing to move toward separation or divorce is not admitting that you failed. It’s simply recognizing that it’s more beneficial than staying together, and that it’s the best choice for you to be happy.

Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself

One commonality with couples and marriage counselling is that it’s often done too late. (Research by John Gottman himself claims that the average is six years too late.) This means that by the time you get to the first session, the outcome may have already been unfolding. No amount of effort on your part could have changed it if your partner had their mind made up. So try not to be too harsh with yourself, or assign blame squarely on your shoulders. It’s a complicated process, with a lot of considerations.

Don't Be Too Hard On Each Other

In a similar vein, try not to place all the blame at the feet of your partner. Once separation is underway, that kind of mindset will only prolong the emotional pain, preventing you from moving on, and it is ultimately unfulfilling. Focus on looking forward instead. As the relationship winds down, your influence over each other will wane, and that fact can be difficult at first – so be as forgiving as you can be. Even if you feel blindsided by your partner leaving, you are not the only one struggling.

If There Are Children, Consider Their Needs As Much As Your Own

There is a saying: “Healthy parents have healthy kids.” And while another often-quoted piece of advice is that you should “Stay together for the kids,” it’s often far more important for children to have happy, emotionally supportive parents than it is to have married ones.

If you have children, and you have been constantly fighting, yelling, or disrespectful with a partner, kids will pick up on that and it will imprint on their behaviour. Consider their emotional well-being as well as their physical health. Figuring out small things like how you will interact with your ex-partner is just as important as “bigger” things like custody arrangements. Always try to imagine what will be in your child’s or children’s best interests – it is the best thing you can do for them, now and in the future.

Learn From The Relationship So You Can Avoid A Similar Situation In The Future

Contrary to what we may feel, losing a long-term relationship does not mean we are worthless. It means we have discovered something new about ourselves and what we are looking for in a partner. Though it is painful, it is immensely useful to look back on the relationship – even the hard parts, especially the hard parts – and analyze our own behaviours to see how we can improve.

For example, if you realize you exhibited controlling tendencies or were gaslighting your partner, that is the first step toward overcoming them and improving yourself. If you gave up your own hobbies and goals for someone who did not reciprocate, you have now learned to set those boundaries in the future. As difficult as it is, the end of a relationship is also a perfect time to connect with yourself, grow more into who you are, and rediscover why you are a worthy and loving partner who has plenty to offer, when you are ready to do so.

If you are currently in a relationship that you feel could be improved, find out more about our couples and marriage counselling here. We hope you’ll find everything you need to flourish!



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