5 Questions Your Couples Therapist Must Ask Before You Get Divorced

Make sure you know the answers to these questions before getting divorced.

Questions to ask before getting divorced Gustavo Fring | Canva

You no longer feel loved by your spouse and aspects of your relationship make you unhappy. And when people are unhappy in their marriages, they think that they only have two options: stay miserable or get divorced. But, before you go down that road and say, "I don't want to stay" and file for divorce, there's one thing you need to do first. Divorce coaches know what they're talking about and recommend asking yourself and your partner some couples therapy questions. Answering these questions will lead you to the best solution. According to three couples therapists, there are some questions you absolutely must answer before you decide to break up.


Here are 5 questions your couples therapist absolutely must ask before you get divorced:

1. Do both of you want the marriage to work?

When you're experiencing problems in your relationship, this is the first and most important question to ask. As a divorce coach myself, let me tell you that attending couples therapy or a couples counseling session doesn't automatically mean both parties want the marriage to work. While most couples who come in for therapy do want to better their relationships, not all couples do. Sometimes one partner comes in to appease the other or let them down easy, in the shelter of a therapist's office. Often, they haven't told their partner that they want to end the relationship.

@juliethe_therapist The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: Principle 1: Enhancing Love Maps.Spend time regularly updating love maps using the Gottman’s free app Card Decks, regular date nights, and weekly/daily check ins.Principle 2: Nurture Fondness and Admiration.Spend time daily thinking about qualities that you love about your partner.When you see them showing those qualities, express gratitude and appreciation towards them.There is a 7 week exercise in the book and probably available on google. Principle 3: Turn Towards Bids for Connection.Responding positively to your partner builds trust and strengthens the relationship.Principle 4:Acceping Influence from your partner.Acknowledging that multiple realities and perspectives exist and are valid.Principle 5: Solve Solvable Problems.Learn to use the gentle start up and other conflict management tools.Principle 6: Overcome Gridlock.Underneath perpetual fights are unmet dreams.Understanding your partner’s dreams underneath the conflict make compromises easier.Principle 7: Create Shared Meaning.“Developing big and small rituals and traditions strengthens bonds” Check out the Gottman Playlist and follow for more on this series 🤗 #gottmanmethod #johngottman #juliegottman #relationshiptherapist #couplestherapy #therapytiktok #therapytok @juliethe_therapist @juliethe_therapist ♬ original sound - Julie The Therapist

It can sometimes take months of counseling to get to the truth. For example, Karen and Rob are a couple who had come in for counseling while separated. Karen wore down her immune system and made herself seriously ill trying to save their marriage. She had already turned to re-opening herself to the relationship when she realized that this was the cause of her illness. She discussed this with Rob and they started mourning their marriage together.

As soon as they let go, she began to get better physically. If you are already at "I don't," continuing to say "I do" can be counterproductive. Sometimes, it takes personal therapy to work out complex emotions about the marriage. Author Dr. Marni Feuerman agrees that being unsure or even ambivalent can make counseling more difficult. She points out that individual therapy can help speed up the process. In cases of extreme ambivalence or if divorce is an issue already on the table, consider your therapy to be motivated to work on the issues with your partner. This may also be called "discernment counseling" which is designed to deal with the "mixed agenda couple."

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2. Have you identified and taken responsibility for your part in the breakdown of the marriage?

It may be a cliché but only because it's true; it takes two to tango. Relationships are a two-way street and can only work if both parties are invested. Relationship coach Lesli Doeres explains that while it’s easy to blame your partner, it's better to take accountability. "Addressing your part of the pattern and learning to manage yourself will give your partner different behavior to respond to and give your relationship a new lease on life." In other words, be the change you want to see in your relationship and avoid playing the blame game.

From my perspective, getting to know yourself and what you need and want in your marriage is an integral part of couples therapy. The more honest you can be with yourself and, in turn, your partner, the more likely you are to benefit from couples therapy, both as an individual and then as a couple. Getting to know yourself means asking the hard questions. Have you initiated them or responded to something your partner has done in defensive, non-helpful ways? Diving into couples therapy and doing all that you can do to repair this primary relationship means laying yourself bare and accepting your bare spouse. This can be extremely challenging. The more you allow or push yourself to be in the trenches the more you and your spouse will gain from the process.

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3. Have you committed to counseling with a qualified professional?

Not all couples therapists are qualified to give you and your partner the proper care your relationship needs. In the case of saving your relationship, you will need an expert who specializes in assisting couples in need. Doares notes that "a good counselor will have specific training in couple's therapy and a practice that consists mainly of this kind of work. Your relationship problems did not develop overnight and won't be resolved in two or three sessions."

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She explains further that progress can be made in as little as three months but it can also take much longer. If you’re committed, time won’t be an issue. Feuerman agrees and adds that it's important to engage fully in the tasks involved. She asks, "Are you following through on tasks the therapist asks of you? Couples counseling takes many months, often one to two sessions a week." Only then can you start figuring out a solution.

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4. Are you polling too many people about your marriage?

It's natural to want to share your feelings with your family and friends but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Feuerman explains that dishing about your spouse in "play-by-play negative highlights" will ultimately prove disastrous if you choose to stay together. "You are going to then have the extra challenge of explaining your choice if you decide to stay with your spouse. Friends and family may not be willing to forgive or see your spouse in the same light again after your disclosures."


5. Are you truly prepared for all that divorce will mean for you and your children?

Divorce is a big deal with many consequences. Doares explains the consequences that will affect your "emotions, finances, friendships, family support, lifestyle," and more. "Your children's world will be upended and it may take longer than you anticipate for things to settle down. Not seeing your children every day and not having a say in what happens when they are not with you is a consequence many people are unprepared for." Feuerman adds that for such a life-altering experience, you should take the time to think about it.

"Being uncertain is not the time to throw in the towel on your marriage. There is help for this situation and I do not want you to simply look at the treatment as last on the 'check off list' before divorce. Truly explore what is going to be a life-altering decision." Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, so before you commit to ending your relationship, try and ask yourself these questions. If you're committed to making it work, put your all into it and do it, for yourself and your family.

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Dr. Joyce Fine, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified divorce coach, collaborative divorce facilitator, and custody evaluator.