There were questions in comments about reconciliations. Most of the time we don’t talk about that. I find that there is a small percentage of couples who can successfully reconcile. Maybe there are therapists somewhere that have a high rate of reconcilliations that work out, but I have not personally experienced that. Couple dynamics can be changed and recharted through couples counseling but it’s an intense (and usually long) process. I find, a lot of times, “confused” couples attempt the most number of reconcilations. Either one or both are confused about the relationship (it’s usually both but one partner is “doing” confusion for both…not confused people do not stay with confused people.)
I do work with couples, especially pre-marital couples, on communication and other “glitches” that may threaten future stability. If a couple in a serious relationship has issues regarding communication, “fairness”, acceptable and unacceptable (and, again, usually communicating that), I have no problem working with them. If a couple feels that they are well-suited and fairly healthy but need some guidance and help in solidifying that union or making it better, I work with them. Many of the “healthy couple” strategies are discussed in Getting Back Out There (for those of you waiting for it, I understand it is SHIPPING!)
I know couples who have successfully gone through counseling who are married and/or have children and lots at stake and two committed people. I’m not talking about couples counseling in this post, I’m talking about a breakup (a true breakup, not a separation to sort things out) and then attempts at reconciliation. Rarely have I seen that work out and never with people who haven’t been together or married a long, long time.
The only exception to that rule is what I call the “event defining” break…a drunken episode and then the couple go to AA and/or Al-anon and work their programs and come back together….or the death of a child…where I have seen more than one couple go to their separate corners, unable to share the pain, and eventually come back together later in the grieving process. But besides these two “event defining” breakups, I haven’t seen many reconciliations that work out or any apart from these situations (except for one couple who, while broken up, found meditation and yoga together and now are all Zen about everything on the planet and another who had just married too young and separated for a year and went to counseling together and then regrouped as a mature couple staying in counseling for a few years).
Professionally I haven’t seen it very often and I haven’t heard about it from many other therapists. I don’t study it and there may be entire bodies of work that I’m missing, but my professional experience and my personal experience is that they don’t work.
And sometimes just trying reconciliation, if you have certain histories, can be a trauma.