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Family Law Blog

Comment on divorce & family law 

Couples counselling is not just about trying to revive the romance


I was always a sceptic about couples counselling. After all, you can’t manufacture love. You can’t ‘talk’ it into existence if it has been extinguished. Isn’t it better to simply accept that love is gone?

But dealing day in, day out with people whose loves have been trampled by anger, humiliated by betrayal, frozen by grief and withered by neglect, it is clear than love never really is extinguished. It remains, squashed, around the edges, sometimes transformed into anger and frustration, often loitering in disappointment or hurt, and always present in the concern for a child’s other parent.

So it is no surprise that with expert help and commitment like that offered in couples’ counselling, two people can reopen channels of communication, learn from the bad stuff and move forward together. The shared allegiance of attending couples counselling in itself can be enough to fan those fragile sparks of love into something a little more substantial.

But it is more than this. Counselling may not necessarily reignite the relationship, but that doesn’t mean that it has failed. Through simply meeting an estranged partner and being able to sensibly talk through practical issues, such as how to divide the assets and finances and how they will organise access to any children, means that counselling can be a success even if the couple decide that splitting up remains the best decision. This can help reduce the cost of divorce and the time it takes to finalise arrangements.

Couples counselling is exhausting and frustrating – and more than likely painful. But it can also be enlightening, humbling and strengthening. There is a huge satisfaction in knowing you did your utmost to try to work through relationship breakdown. Couples counselling is also a learning experience. It is an opportunity to recognise where mistakes were made and outdated priorities can be re-jigged so they aren’t carried into new relationships. For every person who looks for a new partner more in keeping with their changed self, there is another who hooks up with a new partner who is simply a different version of the old one - - and we all know how that story ends!

It should be seen as an opening to create some level of communication with your estranged partner. All too often, separating couples try to use the legal process as a means of communicating the one thing the court system is totally ill equipped to deal with: feelings. Airing grievances via court papers and solicitors’ correspondence is perpetually unsatisfying and horribly expensive. It makes much more sense to deal with issues in the more conducive and private arena of couples counselling, from an emotional and economic perspective and move forward to deal with the changes that need to be made with a clearer head.

Couples who can separate their feelings from their financial decisions can and do reach speedy and sensible financial settlements that can be implemented with reduced expense. Maintaining a dialogue with your partner means you use your family lawyer only for the bits of the process where he or she can really add value.

In short, if couples counselling does not save your marriage, it may well save you a heap of regret, as well as a fortune in legal fees.

Kathryn McTaggart
Divorce Solicitor in Wales


Loading comments...

So many great points well made! As a couple’s counsellor, I would strongly recommend every couple seek help before reaching a solicitors door for all the reasons mentioned. Think of counselling as a safe place to negotiate the future, if only because you owe it to your children to have tried everything before throwing in the towel.
An interesting statistic though.. 80% of divorced couples regret some aspect of their separation within 2 years. Counselling can help you make sure you’re not doing something you may regret too….

By Liz Sparkes on Thursday November 18, 2010

I thoroughly support everything Kathryn - and Liz - says. As another couples counsellor, I find the whole issue of success and failure at the heart of this debate. People ask what our success rate is - and I have to ask them what they mean by success? And then again it so often seems to be a fear of admitting to failure that stops people from asking for help in the first place. We so often see people rather late in the day, with at least one of them wishing they had come for help sooner. I think of the work we do with couples - and individuals going through divorce - as getting everything out of their heads, where it can fester - and onto the table where it turns from failure into a simple mistake to be learnt from.

By Jenny Heath on Friday November 19, 2010

It makes absolute sense (emotional and financial)to get the right people to deal with the right parts of the process.  I agree that it does depend on your definition of success. A divorce may be inevitable but a bad divorce is not….

By Kathryn McTaggart on Tuesday November 23, 2010

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