With counselling, marital problems don’t have to lead to divorce
The news that divorce rates are up to pre-2008 levels is very sad (‘Rate of divorce back at levels not seen since the boom years’, Irish
Independent, September 14). Relationship breakdown can be traumatic, gruelling and bleak, not just for the couple but for their children (if they are parents), their extended family and friends.
But with some professional help, it is often avoidable. In my experience as a counsellor, many couples seek help only as a very last resort, a last-ditch attempt to resolve differences that they feel are irreconcilable.
In practice, once two people are prepared to come into the room together, the prognosis for their relationship is good. Their problems are often down to a simple lack of good skills in communication, conflict resolution and dealing with stress.
Before divorce became legal in Ireland, couples did not necessarily need relationship skills to stay married. There was no way out. Many people suffered for decades in unhappy marriages, with neither the help to improve their relationship, nor the possibility of leaving.
The awareness of practical interpersonal skills for marriage was limited.
Being a good partner and parent requires many complex abilities, which change as the relationship matures and children grow up. Unfortunately, there is no instruction manual for this.
Life inevitably brings many stressful challenges. When things get difficult, couples can understandably feel that the love has evaporated and the only solution is to separate.
The book ‘Couple Skills’ by McKay, Fanning and Paleg is a good starting point for anyone encountering relationship issues.
Talking things out with a qualified counsellor can quickly break the logjam and help the couple rekindle the love and affection they once had.
Sticking together through difficult times can bring a couple closer, leading to deeper commitment and greater resilience in facing life’s unavoidable tribulations. Separation does not have to be the only option. Maeve Halpin Ranelagh, Dublin
Couples can feel the only solution is to separate. Photo posed.