marriage counseling before divorce

Why You Should Consider A Marriage Counseling Retreat Before Divorce

When you look at the most common reasons for which couples divorce, it’s sad to think that divorce is the result. Did the couples even try to save their marriages? Did they even know how to try? And if they had attended a marriage counseling retreat before divorce, would they still be married today?

Every relationship has stages.

Even the healthiest relationships, like everything else in life, have a natural ebb and flow to them. We talk about the stages of love all the time. Some sources reduce the discussion to three stages of love, and some expand to as many as twelve stages.

The point is that relationships, like our bodies, change over time. We decide, however, whether they stand the test of time or deteriorate from ignorance, indifference, or neglect.

We can prepare for the natural shifts and embrace them when they arrive. Or we can live in denial and expect only our youthful selves to look back at us from the mirror. Butterflied-stomachs and hot sex with the perfect partner are no different in the “relationship mirror.”

Poor communication is the main culprit.

In one way or another, most divorces can be traced back to issues of communication. And communication can be traced back to problems of personal skill development and self-accountability.

Factors like personal identity, expectations, desires, and needs get woven throughout that framework. But in the big picture, when you look at the onset of marital erosion, effective communication is usually the glaring void. After all, no specific issue can ever be resolved through guesswork and mind-reading (though many couples attempt to disprove that tenet).

Whether a couple reaches out for traditional therapy or attends a marriage counseling retreat before divorce, there is usually a lot of water already under the bridge.

Unhappy couples wait too long to get help.

Married couples wait an average of six unhappy years before getting help. And when they finally do reach out, they are desperate. They need help, and they need it fast. Often they have divorce lawyers on deck and are making a last-ditch effort to see if there is any hope. At least then they can say they tried.

If we could only change that human tendency to procrastinate, couples could avoid unnecessary unhappiness and destructive erosion of the marriage.

It is precisely that element of timing — and time — that makes traditional one-hour-every-week couples therapy ineffective when divorce looms.

I frequently draw attention to how that plays out in a typical weekly calendar, specifically for a marriage in trouble. There are 168 hours in a week. You spend one hour with a therapist on your 911 issues (call it 45 minutes by the time you warm up and wind down). That leaves 167 hours to remain mired in the same-old-same-old that got you to the point of needing help in the first place.

What are the chances that you will go straight from a therapy session into “doing your homework”? You’re more likely to fall back into your routine and typical reactions. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither are habits.

Often, couples who decide to attend a marriage counseling retreat before divorce come in believing divorce is their only option. But the intensive format of the marriage counseling retreat changes that.

It doesn’t guarantee that a couple won’t divorce ultimately. It does, however, render clarity to their situation. By steeping the couple in their stuff and guiding them through the process of dealing with it, the couple leaves with knowledge, fledgling skills, and a practical plan. And maybe even hope.

Benefits of marriage counseling retreat before divorce.

The defining characteristic of a marriage counseling retreat is its intensive format. There is a purpose and benefit to removing yourselves from your daily environment. If you want to save your marriage, you have to get away from the toxicity that is fueling your situation.

Immersing yourselves in a marriage-intensive format allows you a safe and singular focus. You are no longer “you and your spouse.” You are now “you, your spouse, and your marriage.” And your therapist team is there to redirect your focus to the third partner: your marriage.

In the course of as little as one weekend, you will achieve what would otherwise take many months to complete. Your marriage will get the triage attention it desperately needs, and you won’t feel helpless to render care once you leave.

Couples must re-engage with what brought them together in the first place. They can easily forget the good they first saw in one another, believing it has been lost or morphed into oblivion.

By electing to attend a marriage counseling retreat before divorce, you will revisit those memories. You will discover what has driven you apart and how you each and both have contributed to that separation.

One of the most invigorating benefits of a retreat format is that spouses get to be heard. Tragically, the perception of not being listened to (and understood) is one of the primary antagonists to marital satisfaction. It can cause people to fall out of love and to believe there is no hope. It can lead to isolation, depression, and a diminished sense of self-worth.

When you have the support of a therapist team that specializes in marriage recovery, you can safely speak your heart without fear. You can also listen without defense. And those two dynamics, when shared, reawaken a foundation that may have been there all along. And if it wasn’t there, it can be developed.

Attending a marriage counseling retreat before divorce will allow you to stop in your tracks and reevaluate where your marriage is heading and why. And it will give you the tools and skills you need to heal your relationship and reclaim — or even reinvent — the love you once had.


Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats