Couples often come to therapy as the last straw before getting divorced. By the time couples finally go to counseling, they have often been through the wringer and back and feel that therapy is sort of their final "Hail Mary" to try to save their marriage. When couples do finally take that step and come into counseling they often ask the question "Is our marriage salvageable?" In other words, they're asking if their marriage is over.
Unfortunately, there's no simple answer to this. Not even marriage counselors know the answers to this. However, through counseling, couples work to discover if their marriage is salvageable or not. They try to see if there's a glimmer of affection left in their spouse that they can fall back in love with. After a lot of talking, breaking down bad communication patterns, exposing emotions not tapped since the wedding day, and just doing some good old-fashioned work, then couples have a better idea of how to answer the question ‘is my marriage over?' But although they have worked so long with a counselor, they come to the answer to this question on their own. And they are ultimately the ones who decide whether to stay in their relationship, too.
Through therapy, couples explore their relationship in ways they've never explored before. They try to find new things they never knew about their spouse that they can fall in love with despite all the current and past difficulties they've gone through. Couples also explore their contributions to the difficulties in their relationship. They discover things about themselves perhaps they never knew. They make conscious decisions about whether or not they will adapt to their current relationship and whether they will try to meet their spouse's request to help make the relationship better. Through all this work and all this discovery, they are slowly uncovering whether or not their relationship is over or not.
If, after all this work and exploration, couples still can't decide whether their relationship is over, that's okay. That's common. Therapy is a process, not an event. In other words, there isn't a certain amount of time in therapy in which you should come to a concrete decision about whether your marriage is over. As long as therapy is helping you identify the new information that informs your decision about whether your relationship is over or not, then keep going through with that process until you feel you are ready to make a decision. When and if you make that decision is up to you.
So how do you know when you're ready to make that decision? How do you know whether your marriage is over or not? The long and the short of it is, your marriage is not over so long as you want to keep fighting for it. Look, no marriage is perfect. If you ask a hundred people what a perfect marriage looks like you'll get a hundred different answers. The truth is that as long as you find enough worth in your marriage to keep working on it, then who's to say to you that you should cash in your chips and end your marriage? This is entirely up to you. You shouldn't rely on anyone (even your therapist) to tell you whether you find enough worth in your relationship to keep working on it.
How you want your marriage to look is entirely between you and your spouse. To be able to explore your relationship with your spouse together, negotiate it, and create pathways in life with each other is what makes your marriage uniquely yours, and taking this path together (even if the path is rocky) creates passion, romance, and strength. And no matter what the path may be, It's not over until you say it is.