Reports show that there are approximately 120,000 marriages registered per year in Australia. This statistic is quite lovely, knowing that 120,000 couples are so content in each other’s company that they are willing to commit to a lifelong together. Whilst the idea of marriage evokes a sense of happiness, positivity and warmth, the idea of divorce is quite the opposite. Divorce, the formal separation of husband and wife, is often associated with heartache, complication, hurtfulness and anger. While reports show that the number of divorces is declining over time, statistics indicate that approximately one in three marriages still end up in divorce, and that in Australia there is approximately 47,000 divorces registered per year. Realistically, marriages can be hard work, often-requiring compromise, sacrifice, teamwork, and effort to resolve issues. Living together in harmony comes easier to some couples than it does to others. Thankfully, for couples experiencing difficulty, marriage counselling may be the answer.
Why do people get divorced? What increases the chance of divorce?
There are many reasons why a wedded couple may separate, with there often being a combination of reasons rather than just one. The following seven factors have been identified as being the leading reasons as to why couples divorce:
- A lack of commitment, such as marrying the wrong person or marrying too young.
- Problems communicating or constantly arguing.
- Inequality within the marriage such as an unfair division of chores.
- Physical, emotional and/or substance abuse.
- Having unrealistic expectations and being unprepared for the complications of marriage.
- Financial problems.
There are a number of risk factors that increase the likelihood of divorce. These include marrying as a teenager or before the age of 25, having previously divorced, being of low socio-economic status, having multiple children at once (e.g. twins), a lack of education, not attending pre-marital counselling, if one’s parents are divorced, if there is more than 10 years age difference between the couple, having differing religious beliefs, cohabiting before marriage, and marrying too quickly (less than two years together).
Consequences of marriage breakdown:
On average, couples divorce after approximately 12 years into their marriage, often separating when they have established a home together. Therefore, not only are divorces very upsetting, they can be extremely stressful. In most instances the family house needs to be sold, individuals must relocate their home, have their belonging’s settled and finances re-organised, all of which typically lead to excess expenditure and legal fees. Then one must re-structure their social life, re-enter the unfamiliar dating scene and perhaps even feel lonely amongst wedded family and friends. When children are involved the situation gets even more complicated; child custody arrangements may be tedious and explaining the divorce-situation to your child can be very upsetting, not only for oneself but also for the child.
The effect of divorce on children:
In any given year in Australia, approximately 47% of divorces include children, which equates to approximately 42,000 children. Research suggests divorce can impact a child’s life in a number of negative ways, particularly for those who are less resilient. Reports comparing children from broken homes against those from intact homes have shown the following:
- In and amongst other factors, children from a single-parent home are likely to do worse on a range of outcomes. For example they more commonly have less education, get pregnant during their teenage years and partake in antisocial activities.
- Children with divorced parents are 2 to 3 times more likely to have a marriage breakdown themselves.
- Children with divorced parents are more likely to worry about big events where both parents will be present, such as weddings, graduations and so on. They are also more likely to question whether their father even loves them.
- Children from divorced families are likely to report feelings of loneliness. This could be because they are at an increased risk of losing contact with their father, grandparents, and friends if they have relocated.
- Children from broken families are more likely to feel down and angry leading to increased chance of unstable and fewer friendships, health problems and academic difficulties.
When mother and father divorce, a child’s life significantly changes. Children are often put in the middle causing them significant distress. It is important to ensure your child is provided with the best support possible for them to cope and adapt adequately. Engaging them in therapy during this time of need will help prevent the development of future issues for your child.
What is marriage counselling?
Marriage counselling is a type of therapy delivered to couples or individuals who are either entering into marriage and wanting advice, wanting to reconcile differences and problems within one’s marriage, seeking professional assistance to ensure one’s separation/ divorce goes as smoothly as possible, or wanting psychological assistance to aid their adjustment post-divorce. There are many reasons as to why couples may seek marriage counselling, such as the following:
- Different goals/ priorities.
- Different ideas on how to best parent.
- Illness or injury impacting the relationship.
- Unsatisfactory sexual intimacy or mismatched sexual desire.
- Boredom or a general sense of unhappiness within the marriage.
- As a last attempt at restoring their marriage before deciding whether to divorce or not.
- Advice on how to have a successful marriage.
- To aid divorce or post divorce struggles.
How can marriage counselling help you?
Marriage counselling can help repair a marriage by doing the following:
- Teaching you the best way to communicate with each other.
- Helping you understand each other’s needs.
- Identify and address the problems creating marital discord.
- Increasing emotional and physical intimacy.
- Teaching effective coping and anger management strategies.
- Increasing trust between each other.
- Reminding you why you fell in love in the first place.
- Increasing one’s tolerance.
- Identify and address any underlying psychological conditions that may be contributing to, or exacerbating one’s marriage problems, such as anxiety, depression, anger problems and more.
- All of the abovementioned strategies resulting in less arguing.
Satisfaction with marriage/ couples counselling:
A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies investigated the effectiveness of marriage counselling in assisting an individual or couple with their issues. They assessed the effectiveness of counselling for individuals, also looking at the differences between women and men, and those who separated post counselling compared to those who remained together. Overall, they received fairly positive feedback regarding marriage counselling:
- 80% of respondents said they would recommend such therapy to their family and friends.
- 66% believed counselling helped resolve their relationship problems.
- 71% of all women and 62% of all men (whether they stayed married or separated) were satisfied with the therapy they received.
- 78% of women and 83% of men who remained married believed counselling had positively impacted their relationship.
- 50% of separated men and 66% of separated women believed marriage counselling changed them personally for the better.
- Marriage counselling was shown to be particularly effective for women, even those who separated from their husband post counselling as they demonstrated heightened levels of self-esteem and coped well. On the other hand, men who separated from their wives post counselling reported to be the least satisfied with therapy.
Effectiveness of marriage/ couples counselling
Research conducted by Lebow, Chambers, Christensen & Johnson (2012) reviewed the research literature about couples therapy published over the past ten years. Their research demonstrated couples therapy led to 70% of individuals to be happy with their relationship – a statistic likely to instil hope for many individuals experiencing trouble within their marriage. They also found that if one partner in the relationship suffered from a mental illness it increased the likelihood of relationship distress. Couples therapy was therefore considered to be of an effective means in identifying and addressing an individual’s underlying mental health issues.
On average, couples will seek professional assistance after six years of marital troubles. The issue with this is that six years is a fairly long time to be experiencing problems. Marriage therapy is much more effective if you seek assistance as soon as the problems arise. The longer a couple waits before seeking help, the bigger and more complex their issues tend to be, meaning they typically have a more pessimistic outlook on their relationship and are less resistant to treatment. Also, one partner may have already decided they want to separate. Therefore the sooner you seek help – the better off your relationship is likely to be.
How can Psylegal help you?
Marriage counselling is heavily dependent on the therapeutic relationship between the couple and the Psychologist. Hence, it is essential to select an experienced therapist who is and trained in couples/ marriage counselling.
At Psylegal, our experienced Psychologists have appropriate training to provide marriage counselling. Importantly, our Psychologists will acknowledge both partners’ concerns and will work towards building intimacy between couples and assist them in finding resolutions, while remaining impartial and available to both partners.
Remember, all couples experience challenges and rough patches. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can enjoy a loving and satisfying marriage. Call us for more information on our marriage counselling services on 1300 79 22 09