“Until death do us part” does not hold the meaning or weight that it used to in many marriages. Divorce rates began to soar in the 1980s and by the early 1990s, the average divorce rate was 50%. That means that every other marriage ended in divorce. One reason many believe so many divorces occur is due to the fact that they are too easy to obtain.
While this may be true, recent movements to require marital counseling prior to allowing couples to apply for a divorce have raised many questions as to the effectiveness of mandatory marital counseling. While mandatory marital counseling may seem like a good idea, it is bad for many reasons. Mandating couples to obtain marital counseling prior to a divorce can raise unrealistic outcomes, obstruct schedules that are already constrained, and take away more freedom of the individual.
Many states are trying to pass legislation that would require pre marital counseling as well as several years of counseling before granting a divorce to couples seeking to separate legally. While counseling may help some work out their problems, this can also lead to unrealistic expectations. Couples who have been together for several years already know what they can and cannot work out with each other. They may have tried previous counseling and failed at it.
Just offering the counseling does not mean that it is going to work. Counseling and working through problems can only work if both parties are open to it and wish for it to work. When one partner is not willing to resolve issues, the other partner may be left with unrealistic expectations that the relationship can be salvaged, when in fact, the promise of counseling is only delaying the inevitable.
Marital counseling takes time. With two people on different schedules who may not even live together, time is constrained enough as it is. Mandating someone’s time who did not commit a crime is a crime in and of itself. Wanting a divorce is not a crime, and sentencing couples to seek counseling is like treating them like prisoners. If one parent has restricted access to the children, this obligation could also cut into his or her already limited parenting time.
Mandating marital counseling is a violation of personal freedoms. It takes away an individual’s choice to make decisions regarding whom to be with. It forces people who do not want to see each other to spend time together talking about their already troubled relationship. This type of communication can often lead to more hurt and anger as more secrets are revealed during counseling sessions.
Things that were not going to be shared to keep the other party from being further hurt or angered often end up being aired. What once could have been an amiable parting gets drawn out. There is no choice but to remain legally married until the sessions are over and the court sees fit to grant a petition for divorce.
While counseling can help in some situations, mandating counseling never seems to be a good idea for non criminal activity. When two people decide to end a marriage, they should be allowed to do so without being mandated by the government. Forced counseling can provide unrealistic expectations and make separation all the more painful. Already busy schedules become blocked off with mandatory meeting times with counselors and government has more control over people’s personal freedoms and rights. Even though the divorce rates are high and don’t seem to be getting any lower, mandating marital counseling is not the answer.