Saturday, February 20th, 2010
I have people tell me that “1 out of every 2 couples divorce.” The tabloids say it often so you think it must be so. But it is not my experience — and I am a marital therapist who sees people who might have lots of reason to divorce (and, of course, some do).
My bet is that over 80% of couples who seek marital therapy revive and even thrive.
Statistics Canada (2005) tell us that by the 30th wedding anniversary 38% of couple divorce. About 16% of the divorces include people who had already been divorced at least once. The probability of divorcing for a first marriage is lower because remarriages have a higher divorce risk than first ones.
Concerned couples starting out in marriage are sometimes worried about the reported divorce numbers and it surely does not help that we are inundated with “media divorces” who break up on a seeming whim, perhaps to obtain more glitz and blitz.
The Vanier Institute reports that the divorce rate for first marriages is about 30% throughout 30 years of marriage. In other words, first marriages have a 70% chance of surviving and even thriving for 30 years!
I have seen in my practice several variables that affect marriage stability. Let me give you a few:
+ How well the couple was brought together. Was a decision really made or was the couple in a romance trance where they felt they could not interrupt the process?
+ Will the couple participate in premarital counselling or mentoring? My experience is that this process allows couples to differentiate, that is, to thoughtfully and even prayerfully decide if marrying this person and at this time is what they wish to do.
+ Location of where the couple lives has an impact. Urban and suburban life can have a negative impact on the survivability of the marriage. However, this is ameliorated by participating in an intentional community (e.g. a church).
+ The willingness to obtain early marriage counselling when conflicts become wearing and unsolvable.
+ Another key factor has to do with the couple redefining the relationship with their respective families of origin. For the parents this involves a kind of relinquishment and for the marrying couple it requires a new definition of themselves with their parents.
Get the word out — marriage still works and the numbers are getting better! And your marriage can work well even if you come from a divorced family or had a previous marriage.
Friday, February 12th, 2010
Like many other rabid Canadian hockey fans, I watched the Canada — United States final in men’s junior hockey where the US won 6 to 5 in overtime. The Canadians played as brilliantly as the US team and, as needs to happen in competitive sport, one team won. The US team put in more hockey pucks in the net than did the Canadians.
The defeat on the Canadian players’ faces made it clear that they could not appreciate the excellence of their game and the entertainment that they brought to millions of people. Their lack of ability to celebrate their success and even to smile, let alone be delighted in their silver medals, robbed them as it did us.
They couldn’t be grateful. They couldn’t be appreciative of the quality of their opponents. They couldn’t see further than their own losses. They wouldn’t celebrate the other’s victory. They couldn’t enjoy the excellence of being in the company of excellence. They couldn’t reflect on the reality that they have the privilege of doing what the rest of Canada only dreams of.
Being satisfied with only winning destroys much of life and everyday relationships. I see it in myself and I see it in my clients. Couples tell me about it. Teenagers complain about it.
Good is never good enough.
I tell my clients [and almost anyone else who will listen] that “70 is my new 100.” I also tell them that perfectionism does not help them do the job better, it only ensures that they will enjoy the success less.
Celebrating more, being grateful more, enjoying more, laughing more – these are the kind of “mores” that lead to success.
Sunday, February 7th, 2010
Mostly I ask questions to my clients. But I receive lots of questions as well. Here is one: “Are there some people you don’t counsel because you don’t think you will be successful?”
That’s a good question and with some people I am less capable than others.
I think that I work best with couples and families, though I do see lots of individuals. As a therapist I watch 3 factors – I call them 3M: motivation, match and method.
Motivation is what the client(s) bring to the sessions. Some come to change. Others come for support to stay the same (this is by far the minority). My job is to assess motivation and this is the best indicator of therapy success.
Match is the connection between the therapist and the client. This has a lot to do with shared values and hopes. Mostly I experience empathy for my clients and this is a huge factor in success.
Method is about the particular strategy. Marriage counselling skills are not very helpful with someone experiencing a major depression or recovering from rape trauma. Where I don’t know the method, I ask for training or supervision. Or I may well refer.
So there are some people I don’t counsel because I won’t be the best for them. It is based on the 3Ms. And if I say “not now” to the request, I work to find a best referral for the person asking for help.