Friday, March 01, 2013

Advised to end 40-year happy marriage

Here is today's bad advice. A woman with a long-term happy marriage wants some advice on forgiving her husband, but the advice is for her to get a counselor to talk her into a divorce:
Dear Annie: I recently obtained proof of what I had long suspected: My husband of more than 40 years has been seeing prostitutes and having affairs for the past 20 years. During this time, he was always considerate and loving to me. I thought we had a wonderful marriage. When I confronted him with the evidence, he finally confessed. We went to a counselor, but after a single half-hour session, he wouldn't go back. ...

My counselor, along with some books I have read, says to reestablish our close, loving relationship and let the past go. So I made the effort, and our marriage now seems fine. We are happy with each other, ...

Dear California: You must decide whether you are truly ready to leave your marriage. Forty years is a long time. But your husband's track record doesn't inspire confidence in his future fidelity, and his unwillingness to commit to counseling indicates that he wants things to be exactly as they were before. First, see your doctor ... and then find another counselor. The one you are seeing is not helping you make the best decisions.
This advice is crazy. The writer has already decided that her marriage "now seems fine" and is "happy". She is not asking for help with a divorce decision.

Second, he has a 40-year track record of being a "considerate and loving" husband. That is the important part of this record.

Third, it is plausible that he accurately determined that no more counseling would be helpful to him. Most counseling is counterproductive.

Fourth, Annie is fairly directly arguing to get rid of the counselor that was helping the wife forgive the husband, and get a counselor who is going to advise divorce instead.

I post this to illustrate bad advice, and to point out that marriage counselors are really divorce counselors. This wife may have actually been getting constructive advice from a counselor, but the newspaper advice is to get a divorce counselor instead.

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