Do you know that globally, 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce and that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years? Christian and Islamic tenets emphasize the sanctity of marriage and frown at divorce, barring extreme situations. But in today’s world, divorce cases are becoming rampant, as couples troop to courts, pressing for the dissolution of their marriages. The reasons for increasing rates of divorce is not far-fetched, but this article will rather dwell on what I call the solution to divorce – marriage counselling.
What is Marriage Counselling?
Marriage Counselling is in two ways; the pre-marriage counselling which is a program for intending couples, preparing them for the dynamic journey of living together as man and wife for the rest of their lives in marriage, and the main marriage counselling which is usually a type of psychotherapy for a married couple or established partners that tries to resolve problems in their relationship.
Marriage counseling is often provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists have graduate or postgraduate degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy or have stayed long in their marriages and therefore exude a lot of experience.
Why do couples need marriage counselling?
Two people in marriage usually come with their individual differences, and even though they both promised to love each other through the sun and the rain, these differences may take centre stage at some point and it often leads to a break down of communication between the couple and then to divorce in many cases. Divorce rates vary with the partners’ level of education, religious beliefs, and many other factors. But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children.
Here are some of the most common reasons a couple should seek Marriage Counselling before it degenerates:
When Communication has become negative. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the tone of the conversation. Remember that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it. Negative communication also includes any communication that not only leads to hurt feelings, but emotional or physical abuse, as well as nonverbal communication.
When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair. Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to the therapy process and are being honest, the marriage may be salvaged. At the very least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.
When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences. When a couple begins to experience discord and they are aware of the discord, knowing is only half the battle. Many times I have heard couples say, “We know what’s wrong, but we just don’t know how to fix it.”. This is a perfect time to get a third party involved. If a couple is stuck, a skilled marriage counselor may be able to get them moving in the right direction.
When the only resolution appears to be separation. When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem is still there, but often avoided because time has passed.
When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children. If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the children, it may help to involve an objective third-party. Often couples believe that they are doing the right thing when staying together actually is detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if the couple is able to resolve issue and move toward a positive, healthy relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved. In my opinion, children should never be the deciding factor when couples are determining whether to stay together. Children are generally very intuitive and intelligent. No matter how couples may think they are able to fake their happiness, most children are able to tell.
It is however important to note that not all couples are keen on counselling. However, you can still do something all by yourself to save the marriage. The best resource I can recommend for you – whether or not your partner is willing to help to make things better – is Save My Relationship/Marriage by Lee Baucom, PhD. Please note that Lee has no regard for badly trained couple counselors!
On the contrary, seeking a Marriage Counselor is usually a better alternative, because you get the following benefits, according to Professional-Counselling.com:
Marriage counselling can help you decide what the future might hold for each one of you, and for you as a couple. In marriage counselling you’re encouraged and supported to:
Explain your hopes, dreams and concerns
Understand each other better – one of the greatest benefits of couple counselling
Manage differences of opinion
Improve relationship communication
Explore whether there’s still hope, or whether to end the relationship
Learn problem solving strategies
Identify your wants and needs
Identify what works well in your relationship or marriage - there are always things that are going well!
Process and move on from the disappointments, hurts and anger
Identify your personal innate and acquired resources
Identify your resources as a couple
Explore the potential impact of a breakup – positive and negative
Cope with and manage your losses if it’s your decision to separate
Come to terms with, heal and move on when dealing with infidelity
Get to know yourself and each other better
Before scheduling sessions with a specific therapist, consider whether the therapist would be a good fit for you and your partner. You might ask questions like these:
- Education and experience. What is your educational and training background? Are you licensed to practice? Do you belong to a professional association? What is your experience with my type of issue?
- Logistics. Where is your office? What are your office hours? Are you available in case of emergency?
- Treatment plan. How many sessions should I expect to have? How long is each session?
- Fees. How much do you charge for each session?
What happens if your partner is not ready for counselling?
Quite often, one of the partners doesn’t want to go for couple counselling – for whatever reason. Very often it’s the male partner. If you really think that relationship or marriage counselling can help and your husband or wife won’t go – then you can start by yourself. Your partner may decide to join you at a later stage.
Individual counselling can still help you to:
- consider and manage the effects on the people around you of changes in you, your circumstances and your decisions
- explore the role you might play in your relationship problem – without judgment
- explore your options in terms of your future
- improve your communication skills if necessary
- identify and deal with any personal – as well as relationship – problems
- get support if you or your partner end your relationship or marriage, from someone who is completely independent
Not all marriages can be salvaged by a Marriage counselor.
In the process of marriage counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, marriage counseling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way.
Do you know of any couple going through difficult times…probably on the brink of getting a divorce? Why not share this with them and let’s save one more marriage; thereby reducing the rising statistics of divorce in our society.
Love brought us together, it should sustain us even in difficult times. Marriage counselling might just be the therapy we need to keep our marriages alive.