2008 was definitely a bad year, but for many couples this year has started out even worse. There seems to be no end in sight over the economy, and thousands of working people have suffered or seriously fear redundancy, with all the attendant misery and mental anguish that causes. Your relationship is on the rocks, and you both know it. But you aren’t sure how to fix things – or if you really want to.  

Of course, money isn’t the only harbinger of doom. Illness, infidelity, sex, anger, communication problems – all can contribute to distress in marriage or other relationships. You may well be the sort of person who would rather beat yourself about the head rather than contemplate marriage counselling, thinking that that kind of thing is for other people. However, if the above scenario rings true at all, this may well be the right course of action for you. Sometimes we can be too close to a situation to think clearly, especially when it relates to something as personal as a relationship.  That’s where a counsellor trained in marriage counselling comes in.

Marriage counselling can help you resolve conflicts, heal wounds and rebuild your relationship. Alternatively, it can help you decide that you’d both be better off if you split up. Either way, it can help you understand your relationship better and make well-thought-out decisions. But the first step is to actually make that first appointment.  It is often the case that it’s the woman who will be proactive in these matters, being usually better at expressing inner emotions and feelings. Undoubtedly, however, the best outcome is when both partners attend at the same time.

What exactly is marriage counselling?

Marriage counselling, also called couples’ therapy, helps couples – married or not – understand and resolve conflicts and improve their relationship. It gives couples the tools to communicate better, negotiate differences, problem solve and even argue in a healthier way.

Marriage counselling is generally provided by licensed therapists known as marriage and family therapists. These therapists provide the same mental health services as other therapists, but with a specific focus – a couple’s relationship.

It is often short term therapy. You may need only a few sessions to help you weather a crisis. Or you may need marriage counselling for several months, particularly if your relationship has greatly deteriorated. As with individual psychotherapy, you typically see a marriage counsellor once a week. 

Who can most benefit?

None of us is perfect. Therefore, most marriages and other relationships aren’t perfect either. Each person brings his or her own ideas, values, opinions and personal history into a relationship, and they don’t always match their partner’s. This doesn’t necessarily mean your relationship is bound for conflict. On the contrary, you know the old saying: opposites attract. Differences can actually help you respect, understand and accept opposing views and cultures.

But relationships can be tested. Things that you once found endearing may get on your nerves after a while. Sometimes specific issues, such as an extramarital affair or loss of sexual attraction, trigger problems in a relationship. Other times, there’s a gradual loss of communication and caring.

There’s no doubt that such distress can create tension, sadness, worry, fear and other problems in your relationship.. Left to fester, a bad relationship usually gets worse and eventually can lead to physical or psychological problems, such as depression. In turn this can also create work problems and affect other family members or even friendships as people feel compelled to take sides.

Here are typical issues that marriage counselling can help you and your partner cope with:

%uF0A7 Infidelity

%uF0A7 Divorce

%uF0A7 Substance abuse

%uF0A7 Physical or mental conditions

%uF0A7 Same-sex relationship issues

%uF0A7 Cultural clashes

%uF0A7 Finances

%uF0A7 Unemployment

%uF0A7 Blended families

%uF0A7 Communication problems

%uF0A7 Sexual difficulties

%uF0A7 Conflicts about child rearing

%uF0A7 Infertility

%uF0A7 Anger

%uF0A7 Changing roles, such as retirement

 

Domestic violence

Marriage counselling may also be of help in cases of domestic violence or abuse. However, if the abuse or violence has escalated to the point that you fear for your safety or that of your children, consider contacting the police or a local shelter or crisis centre. Don’t rely on marriage counselling alone to resolve these problems.

Remember: life is a long and winding road, with many a hairpin bend. Think ahead and strap yourself in before both of you fall off the edge. Take that first step before it’s too late and contact a suitable therapist before your relationship gets worse. It may be the best thing you and your partner have ever done.

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