Australia has seen a great deal of change with regards to marriage and marriage counselling in recent decades. Presently there has been a growing interest of social science professionals towards questioning the benefits of marriage and marriage counselling. As far back as the 1980′s research has shown that a strong relationship is linked to living healthier lifestyles, living longer, acquiring greater financial earning capacity and enjoying improved mental health.
Despite all the social, financial and health benefits that a good marriage provides, many couples are reluctant to seek marriage counselling at critical early stages of relationship breakdown. What typically occurs is that one person may want marriage counselling, while the other is resistant.
Many men struggle to admit or be honest about their shortcomings, so they tend to just “do” relationships without really know how they work.
Imagine a guy on a cricket team he’s the bowler, he is giving away to many runs, his team mates complain. He sees it that because his team mates being constructively critical are ‘making him feel bad’ about himself, so he decides to just go play for another team. Rather than take corrective action he just moves on. The other team is happy to have a new guy, until they realise that he has issues with his bowling and the process starts over. This parallels what some guys do in relationships. Rather than dealing effectively or at all with criticism or complaints some guys just start a new relationship.
A study by British sociologists Jean Duncombe and Dennis Marsden suggests that men seek a life in common with their wives that includes domestic comforts and psychological support; but not intimacy, dialogue and self-awareness. In contrast, their wives want a common life with an empathetic partner including an exchange of emotional familiarity. Duncombe and Marsden describe substantial dissatisfaction among women with the inability of men to engage in emotional intimacy and with the priority they give to work. Men of course have feelings, but spoke, in this study, about being reluctant to disclose them. It is suggested by the report’s authors that men’s disinclination to express intimate emotions contributes to relationship troubles and family breakdown. Emotional concerns are becoming an increasing source of friction as the pressures towards emotional communication transform marriage.
John Gottman has found that a marriage succeeds to the extent that the husband can accept influence from his wife. If a woman says, “Do you have to work Thursday night? My mother is coming that weekend, and I need your help getting ready,” and her husband replies, “My plans are set, and I’m not changing them”. This guy is in a shaky marriage. A husband’s ability to be influenced by his wife (rather than vice-versa) is crucial because research shows women are already well practised at accepting influence from men, and a true partnership only occurs when a husband can do so as well.
More than 80 percent of the time it’s the wife who brings up sticky marital issues, while the husband tries to avoid discussing them. This isn’t a symptom of a troubled marriage—it’s true in most happy marriages as well. However, it is difficult not to become critical of a non-responsive spouse.
Most couples who do participate in marriage counselling seek help later rather than sooner. Often couples wait many years before taking the step to face their problems and seek marriage counselling, reducing the chances of preserving their marriage.
The good news is, when both partners apply themselves to the process of marriage counselling positive results have a great chance of being realised. Even severely unhappy marriages can turn around, and both partners will feel they are living a good, fulfilling and happy life together, brought about by marriage counselling.
For couples who have never been to marriage counselling it can seem a mystery and typically many have false assumptions and misbeliefs about what exactly it is and how it all happens. Many men in particular treat marriage counselling with suspicion. Some men agree with Mick Dundee’s statement out of the movie Crocodile Dundee and as a result act accordingly “that if you can’t tell your mates what’s going on, than it ain’t worth telling”.
What relationship counselling provides that friends cannot is a level playing field, where both partners can express their thoughts and emotions in a safe and managed environment. Frequently when couples decide to attend marriage counselling it is not uncommon for them to experience relief from the stresses of the troubled marriage. It becomes a time and place devoted to the relationship where the difficult subjects are discussed, worked through and resolved. This is achieved without the marriage being threatened by disintegrating.
There can be real challenges but more often than not those that have the courage to take that step nearly always live a more fulfilling and rewarding life.