Will My Therapist Tell Me If I Should Get a Divorce?
The short answer is no, your therapist will not tell you if you should get a divorce.
As therapists, our job is to clarify the current difficulty of your situation, outline the problematic dynamics in your relationship, and help you distill your options. We can be diagnostic and direct about your current relationship distress and can help you to better understand and organize your circumstances, but we will not tell you whether or not to end your relationship. Therapists will tell you what needs to be improved, what is getting in the way of improvement (and it is rarely just your partner or your in-laws), what might happen if things do not improve, as well as the possibilities of what could be if there was improvement. Particularly bold therapists might even go so far as to tell you that your actions unchecked will likely end in the loss of your marriage.
There are several reasons why your therapist won’t make this tough decision for you. First, we believe that only YOU are the expert of YOUR life and believe that it is healthier and more empowering for you to make your own choices, especially a decision of such magnitude. Second, we see the issues in relationships more holistically than a do-stay or don’t-stay question. There are complex problems and stress in all relationships, and we believe that those roots need to be addressed before making a final decision. Our goals are to help you cope and learn to regulate your emotions as you consider your options, which we believe will help you to make the decision that is best for you. After all, having to decide if you want to continue to pursue something (be it a relationship with a family member, friend, career, etc) or not will be a constant in life. If you are better able to navigate your thoughts, feelings, and reactions when faced with these decisions, the likelihood of you making a decision that is healthiest for you is much higher.
In addition, therapists giving direct advice about things of this nature is seen as unethical and potentially dangerous. It would be odd that your therapist, after knowing you for three weeks or even three months, would make a decision about your 1, 10, or 40-year marriage. Regardless of your therapist’s knowledge, experience, or expertise, ultimately, the couple is in charge of deciding whether you each value the relationship and wish to continue to work on it.
Lastly, it seems important to mention a potential exception to this rule, which would be in the case of an ongoing violent or emotionally harmful relationship. Our ultimate responsibility is to protect the safety and welfare of the client. Ongoing physical or emotional abuse is contraindicated to couple’s work. In this case we may refer you each to individual counselors until safety can be guaranteed, and couple’s counseling can resume.