Few people enter into marriage thinking that it wouldn’t last – at least not consciously. The majority of us wish for a lasting and lifelong relationship, offering the happiness of a shared life and a family.
But the statistics on divorce show that there has been increased wreckage on the seas of matrimony, with people hurt, families torn apart, lives badly affected. It is true that the rate in divorce in Australia has slowed during the last 30 years, but in the year 2000, more marriages ended due to divorce than due to death of one of the spouses.
Divorce is anticipated to end 32 percent of current marriages. And it’s a rising trend. “Rates experienced in real cohorts married during the 1960s are lower than current expectations while rates for those married from the mid 1970s onwards are close to current expectations. These trends indicate that divorce rates approaching 40% by thirty years of marriage may well be observed during the early years of the new century and thereafter hold for some time.” – from “DIVORCE RATES BY LENGTH OF MARRIAGE – SUMMARY OF METHODS AND RESULTS”, a paper delivered by Andrew Webster at the 10th Biennial Conference of the Australian Population Association (2000).
Is There Anything To Prevent Marriage Breakdown?
Marriages follow no generic pattern; when two people have entered into that intimate bond, there are many elements that can negatively buffet the marriage. External problems (finance, work, etc.) can quickly affect the inner being of one or both of the spouses, and this adds increased stress, sometimes reverberating from one to the other of the couple.
That means that there’s no easy answer to the issue of marriage breakdowns. Any solution must of necessity be multi-faceted – but there is strong evidence that links relationship education / relationship counselling with successful marriages.
But Our Marriage Isn’t In Trouble!
Seeking relationship education is sometimes seen as a remedy – but by the time a relationship is in trouble (or recognised to be in trouble), wounds will already have been inflicted on both husband and wife. That means both parties have to deal with FIXING a problem.
It’s been demonstrated that either premarital counselling/education or relationship counselling/education soon after the marriage is linked to a higher probability of a marriage that will remain healthy. Avoidance of potential difficulties is a much better course than fixing problems later on. As Dr Belinda Hewitt stated in her paper titled “Marriage Breakdown in Australia”, there are “known risk factors for marital failure”, related to “patterns of negative interaction”. The handling of conflict is a major issue. Encouragingly, she also states that “[s]tudies have shown that couples can be taught critical skills that are useful for handling common relationship conflicts (e.g., money, children, chores, and sex. The evidence that couples can learn to communicate less negatively and more positively is quite robust.”
But We Love Each Other!
The saying is that “Love is blind”, but the stardust of love usually does wear off, leaving couples to love each other with more discerning eyes than in the first flush of romance.
When marriages break down, it’s not that someone waved a magic wand and removed the love in an instant. Rather, it’s a process that results from ongoing conflicts, issues, interactions and developments. To keep love alive, one makes the choice of love each day; one learns mutual sharing, mutual interest, mutual connection.
There are tools of perception and behaviour which greatly increase the chances of a marriage surviving the tempests that may crash against it. It makes sense not to leave love in a vulnerable and unguarded place in the heart – but rather to protect it with all the tools at one’s disposal.
Should Marriage Celebrants Be Telling Us About This?
Australia recognises the importance of relationship education, and it’s not just something that is a good idea for celebrants to discuss with the bride and groom – it’s actually obligatory.
Quoting from the material provided by the Attorney-General’s Department: “The Code of Practice, applicable to celebrants authorised by the Commonwealth, also requires celebrants to maintain up-to-date knowledge about appropriate family relationship services in your community and inform parties about the range of information and services available to them to enhance and sustain them throughout their relationship. Celebrants should be able to provide information, and if necessary referrals, to couples who seek them. Celebrants are not required or expected to provide these services themselves, but are in the perfect position to provide information to marrying couples about the services that are available. This is a valuable role celebrants are required to fulfil.”
Stresses on marriages seem to come from all directions. Both men and women seem to be doing more than ever in their lives, taking on all sorts of responsibilities. Such additional stresses only increase the potential damage to marriages, so it makes sense to pre-empt any relationship damage. Couples who undergo premarital education or early relationship counselling are 30% more likely to have a lasting and healthy marriage.
Take the tools that can head off problems before they happen. Marital education / counselling is one of the best ways of doing that.