Question: We're on the brink of separating, are we too far gone for couple therapy?
Answer from Dr. Sondra Medina: Many couples wait until the situation is dire before considering couple therapy. However, even in the worst of circumstances, couples can experience relief by engaging in some sort of treatment. Couple therapy can help repair the relationship, and it can also help people decide how they want to proceed (either towards separation or towards repair).
For couples who are not sure how to proceed, Discernment Counseling, developed by Doherty and Harris (2006) provides a safe structure for the couple to decide. This type of treatment can be helpful for couples with one partner ready to leave and one partner wanting to repair the relationship (this is the case about 30% of the time that couples are considering separation). It can also be helpful for couples where both partners are ambivalent about whether to separate or not.
Even couples who decide to separate can experience some healing by engaging in separation therapy. The goal in this type of treatment is not to reconcile, but rather for each individual to recognize his or her own responsibility in the demise of the relationship so that neither partner will go on to make the same mistakes in subsequent relationships. Part of separation therapy includes assisting partners in developing a co-parenting plan if children are involved.
And, of course, couple therapy can be used to help repair the relationship so that the couple does not separate. When both individuals desire reconciliation and healing, couple therapy can be invaluable in strengthening their bond and helping them move past many issues including growing apart, breaches of trust, infidelity, meanness, disrespect, and chronic conflicts.
So, the short answer to the question, "We're on the brink of separating, are we too far gone for couple therapy?" is a resounding, "No." Couple therapy can be helpful regardless of how bleak the situation has become.