CONVERSATIONS WITH… A Marriage Counsellor

Family therapist Jennifer Chee dispenses sage advice on how to keep a marriage strong, plus tips on handling the in-laws.

Throw kids and one’s in-laws into the mix and suddenly marriage becomes a totally different ball game. Every person who is added to the family could add another layer of stress on the couple. This is on top of any existing disagreements you have with your spouse. If these pressures and differences are left unresolved, it may mean the ugly spectre of divorce looms.

Indeed, figures from the Department of Statistics show that a total of 7,522 married couples called it quits in 2015, a 2.9 per cent increase from the previous year. There were 28,322 marriages that year.

Beyond a breakdown in communication, a wide variety of causes may be causing the spike in the present number of divorces. Extra-marital affairs, conflicting parenting styles and financial differences are common causes, too, points out aLife marriage counsellor Jennifer Chee. “I’ve also seen cases where there is a mismatch of needs — the husband demanded more sex but the wife wants him to be more emotionally caring.”

Couples should seek help from counsellors as soon as they are unable to resolve any issues on their own.”

Indeed, marriage counselling programmes — such as the ones non-profit groups like aLife provide — are often seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage a failing marriage. But it shouldn’t be. Chee says couples should seek help from counsellors as soon as they are unable to resolve any issues on their own. “Especially if the issue makes them emotional and angry and they’re no longer able to talk to each other on about it ― even refusing to listen to each other.”

As a counsellor, Chee explains that she, as the neutral party, is there to ensure that either spouse is able to hear each other — something they are unable to do at home. But don’t expect your problems to be solved if you aren’t prepared to work with the marriage therapist.

Notes Chee, 68, who has racked up more than 15 years of marriage counselling experience, “I would always give homework to couples and especially the wife. I would ask her to write a diary to record the instances where she was crying and the reasons for it.”

SmartParents unlocks secrets to a loving and everlasting marriage…

In your experience, couples in which age range tend to experience marital problems?

In my counselling experience, it’s most common among couples aged 35 to 50 years old. Couples in this age range [around 35] have usually been married for five years and above and have young children. Marital issues arise because of conflicting parenting styles and an inability to establish financial independence and stable careers. So, in the midst of raising young children, building a career and ensuring financial stability, conflicts emerge. There is also conflict between wanting and not wanting children for couples in this age range.

More and more older couples are getting divorced what’s causing this increase?

Common causes include a communication breakdown, extra-marital affairs and, in some cases the wife, complains that the husband is spending too much time at work and has little time for her.

Any advice for older couples on how they can keep their marriage going?

Spend time together and engage in activities based on their interests such as going to musical concerts and travelling.

Advice on dealing with the in-laws… Next!