First Aid for Marriage
By Eric Bird of Family College for Marriage Resource
Where are they coming from, and where do they want to go?
If you have gained the confidence of at least one of them, by sensitive
listening, then find out if they are willing to talk things through together. If one of them is reluctant, make it clear that you consider their opinion just as important as the other's, in fact, necessary for you to get a balanced picture, because you don't want to take sides.
Whether or not you can get them together, try to discover what they
originally expected from their marriage, what has changed and how serious they each are about trying to make the marriage work.
Ask them, gently and sensitively, the following questions, (or use your own words):-
- How important to them is their marriage?
- If they made vows at their wedding, did they mean them?
- What has changed?
- Who has changed?
- When did things first start to go wrong?
Sometimes talking these things through in the safety that you provide by your neutrality and concern goes a long way towards their mutual understanding. This is especially true in the early stages of difficulty when the level of pain and stress is not yet too severe. Often they will discover that there is still a depth of love which they believed was lost forever.
Are they considering temporary separation or even divorce? If they are, then we have the opportunity to put before them the less attractive aspects of that course of action.
Marriage is more than just a personal arrangement between two people who fall in love. It is a major part of the social fabric of the nation.
The Exeter Family Study shows the impact of divorce on children. Nearly
three times as many children of divorced parents were reported as unhappy and more than twice as many were referred to psychiatric services. These children were twice as likely to have a low self-image, three times as likely to have a poor social life, three times as likely to perform poorly at school, four times as likely to have behaviour problems and twice as likely to suffer ill-health, as those from families where Mum & Dad stayed together. They also report that conflict between parents usually continues, sometimes actually increasing, following a divorce.
The Report "Marital Breakdown and the Health of the Nation" shows the risk of
premature death is greatly increased for divorced people. In certain age groups
the risk is nearly double.
Falling in love just 'happens'. Staying in a loving relationship needs effort!
Sadly most people do not learn from a first marital breakdown. On average
second marriages last only half as long as first marriages. People simply take all the personal faults they brought into the first marriage into the second, but with a poor track record behind them.
If your couple have serious difficulties, try to persuade them to go for marriage counselling. All too often couples wait until they are considering divorce before they think about professional help. The sooner they get the help they need, the less help they will need!