Much more frequently than is discussed or written about, says Broder, one partner in therapy is more invested in the longterm success of the relationship.
Anne Ziff describes her work as “divorce prevention.” As a marriage and family therapist, she has been in practice since the late 1980s, and works in Westport, Conn., and New York City.
“Increasingly I see couples who are entirely committed but not married,” she says.
It’s not a reluctance to make a commitment, but an anxiety.”Of course, as any good therapist, counselor, rabbi, or priest can attest, just because someone expresses interest in making a relationship work—by attending couples therapy, say—does not mean that it should, or even that that is what the person really wants.
Once in a while, Ziff says, she learns in private consultation with one member of a couple that the person would rather call it quits, but doesn’t really know how.
Of course, most young people today consider relationships of more than five years or so almost like a marriage.
In working with the longterm unmarried set, therapists or relationship coaches often say they see more similarities to married couples than differences.
“Then it’s an excellent idea,” she says, “but as an informational, assessment tool, not just to bitch about each other,” Nise says she also has noticed that people may think of therapy for the wrong reasons.
“It’s a chi-chi, fun thing to do, to have a therapist,” she says.
With divorce so routine and pedestrian, and the longterm success of marriage precarious—and of such coin-toss odds—often relationship coaches may offer what parents cannot.
“Both of us have divorced parents,” said Meredith, a 29-year-old law-school graduate living in New York, who finally married her longterm boyfriend after years of indecision and six months of weekly therapy.
“Where you get past that point where everything happens automatically.”In the case of unmarried couples in longterm relationships, therapy serves as it has done traditionally, as the tipping point for bringing ambivalent partners closer together.