When is it too late for counseling?

Sometimes a couple comes in with a 10+ year marriage and one partner is much more dissatisfied with the relationship than the other. Both describe a relationship where they have become working partners caring for the kids but with nothing in common. Sex has died out and they can’t talk without arguing.  The dissatisfied one reports she has changed and grown and her partner is the same. She recounts her past mistrust for his impulsive spending and inappropriate texts from female coworkers when she was pregnant 5 years earlier. They swept it under the rug, resolved to move past it. In separate session the wife admits she has a new male friend she met at the gym but nothing has happened sexually. The husband acknowledges his past mistakes but wants to stay married. His eyes show the hurt at the rejection he feels when his wife tells him that it’s too late and he’s said that before. She admits her new friendship has made her feel stronger in her belief she can handle a divorce. The husband asks me what can be done. I tell them that the only thing that can work is for her to cut off her emotional ties to her new male friend and turn back toward the marriage, making a decision to love and to allow for positive change. She shakes her head no. It’s too late. My magic wand is broken. A realistic depiction of what to expect with a divorce ( kids’ adjustment, new boyfriends/girlfriend plus their kids and exes, shuttling kids back and forth, forgetting shoes and homework, graduations and birthdays) is the most I can do to shine a light on that path down the fork in the road that one partner has already taken. A few years earlier counseling may have helped.

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