Does it make sense for it to be mandatory to have counseling prior to divorcing?
Just imagine your marriage has gone horribly wrong. You want a divorce. But to get one you have to sit through hours of counseling with the partner you love to hate.
Welcome to Wyoming, at least if Ed Buchanan has his way. Buchanan is putting a new bill through the state legislature of Wyoming. If passed, it would require couples in that state attempting to get married or divorced to go through counseling together—and have to pay for it themselves.
“Mandatory counseling for couples contemplating divorce maybe a great way to salvage a relationship on the rocks, and avert behavior that poses a threat to an already fragile marriage” says Tim Atkinson, Executive Director of Imago International. “Take Scarlett Johansson’s husband Ryan Reynolds, for example. Right after their split he was seen cavorting with Sandra Bullock, his co-star of the film 'The Proposal.' That’s bound to have added another lead weight to his sinking marriage,” Atkinson commented.
“But just a few hours in therapy isn’t enough to foster change, and would have to be incredibly well targeted to have a significant outcome. Therapy can’t merely focus on communication tools,” Atkinson noted. “Communication without connection just helps people argue better so that unresolved problems remain on the surface.”
Imago therapists teach couples to connect by learning ways to talk to each other, where the pain and frustration can be put on hold for the moment, so they can reconnect and rediscover their underlying love for one another through effective listening, and developing empathy for their partner.
“It could really change lives if the counseling framework required by law included a way for couples to discuss their emotional needs, and begin to understand the underlying causes of their issues,” states Atkinson. “If not, the chances are high that they will just find a new partner and repeat the same story.”
Once Imago skills are learned, couples are able to switch from blame and criticism to becoming more understanding of their partners emotional needs. Building emotional connection and passion is what makes a relationship strong. “What if couples left their period of mandatory 'divorce' counseling with a new way of relating to each other, which they could use to make their marriage stronger than ever?” says Atkinson.