Treating Couples Unsure About Continuing Their Marriage
One of the most complicated scenarios in couple therapy involves the situation in which one or both partners express uncertainty about trying to preserve their marriage. As described by Doherty (2011), this “mixed-agenda” couple occurs when one partner prefers to save the marriage (“leaning in”), while the other partner wishes to end it (“leaning out”). When couples come to the brink of divorce before they seek professional counseling, their respective agendas for couple therapy can be so misaligned that any progress the therapist tries to make with the couple is thwarted by the depth of their polarization.
Amato, P. R., & Hohmann‐Marriott, B. (2007). A comparison of high‐ and low‐distress marriages that end in divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69(3), 621-638.
Amato, P. R., Loomis, L. S., & Booth, A. (1995). Parental divorce, marital conflict, and offspring well-being during early adulthood. Social Forces, 73(3), 895-915.
Doherty, W. J. (2011). In or out: Treating the mixed-agenda couple. Psychotherapy Networker, Nov/Dec, 45–60.
Doherty, W. J., Harris, S. M., & Wilde, J. L. (2015). Discernment counseling for “mixed‐agenda” couples. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.
Doherty, W. J., Willoughby, B. J., & Peterson, B. (2011). Interest in marital reconciliation among divorcing parents. Family Court Review, 49(2), 313-321.
Jacobson, N. S., & Christensen, A. (1998). Acceptance and change in couple therapy: A therapist’s guide to transforming relationships. New York: Norton.
Jacobson, N. S., & Margolin, G. (1979). Marital therapy: Strategies based on social learning and behavior exchange principles. New York: Brunner/ Mazel.
Johnson, S. M. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Brunner-Routledge.
Owen, J., Duncan, B., Anker, M., & Sparks, J. (2012). Initial relationship goal and couple therapy outcomes at post and six-month follow-up. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(2), 179.
Weiner-Davis, M. (2002). The divorce remedy. New York: Simon & Schuster.