With coun­selling, mar­i­tal prob­lems don’t have to lead to di­vorce

Irish Independent - - LETTERS & EDITORIAL COMMENT -

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.

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