One of the most unpleasant experiences in couples counseling, although uncommon, is when an individual uses the session to announce that he or she wants a divorce or to end their relationship. This typically occurs in the first session or within the first few sessions.
There are several reasons a person uses couples counseling to make this announcement: a person is afraid of the reaction of their partner, ranging from excessive anger to suicidality; an individual feels their already announced decision to end the relationship has been ignored or dismissed; or lastly, an individual is wanting the marriage counselor to validate their decision to leave—although this isn’t the role of the couples counselor.
The average couple doesn’t seek marriage counseling until six years after identifying serious marital problems. Occasionally a couple gets to couples counseling too late—meaning one of the partners has checked out and doesn’t want to continue working on the relationship.
Marriage counseling is hard work, and both individuals need to be committed to the process to make the changes required for a healthy, successful marriage. It’s typical for a couple to enter couples counseling skeptical that sufficient change will occur. A skilled couples counselor can see where a couple gets stuck and navigate the couple through the impasses. However, a couples counselor needs two willing participants to commit to the process, regardless of how doubtful they are of the outcome.