Should I Stay or Should I Go (Part 2 of 2)
On behalf of Judith Holzman
Some months ago, I wrote a blog entitled “Should I Stay or Should I go, (Part 1 of 2)” and it talked about leaving a marriage/common law relationship. This blog entry is about what you do if you decide to stay in the relationship.
I never recommend that people stay if there is abuse, especially if the abuse if physical. If there is emotional abuse, but your partner wants to change and if it is a matter of careless and hurtful words only, then marriage counselling may be an option. This involves the other person wanting to change. It will also include personal counselling for one or both people, but must include counselling for the abusive person.
Both people will have to want to make the relationship work, but again no one should be the subject of abuse. Nothing excuses “put downs” or hurting another, and emotional intimidation is abuse.
Marriage counsellors can be any one of the following:
- Social Worker; or
- Psychotherapist, who can also be a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist or a Social Worker, but a Psychotherapist can also be anyone who holds themselves out as such.
If they are not a Social Worker or someone else who has been trained similarly to a social worker, and they are not a Psychologist or a Psychiatrist, then they likely do not have the qualifications to do the job. However, some people who are trained as Ministers, Priests or Rabbis and have the qualifications by way of degree in Divinity may have the training required.
It is very important to go to someone who is properly trained because a bad counsellor can make a bad situation worse. You need someone who is not only trained as stated above, but is also empathetic and caring. If you don’t like your counsellor, try another one. If they are one-sided or have a gender bias or otherwise cannot see both sides, they are the wrong person for you.Marriage counselling is long-term. I have never heard of marriage counselling being successful in just one or two sessions. There has to be a commitment to go to counselling long-term and to do so regularly. Your marriage counsellor also needs to help you develop a “constitution for your marriage”. Both parties may also need supportive personal therapy to deal with their “baggage” before or during marriage counselling.
While talk of a constitution to a marriage may sound humorous, marriages are like countries and they have constitutions. Some marriages, like some countries, end up being autocratic states and, just like you would not want to live in a country like that, you do not want your marriage to be like that either.
Marriage As A Democracy
A marriage should be a democracy with both people having an equal voice, even if there is a sharing of responsibilities that has them doing different chores. There is nothing wrong if one person handles the finances and another person handles house chores or child responsibilities. The problem comes when there is a refusal to show documents or share financial information with the other person, or a refusal to allow for a sharing of the monies of the family.
People fight over money – earning, spending and sharing it. People fight about work – full-time, overtime, part time or being a stay at home spouse. If your spouse says that “I earn more and therefore I get to spend more”, you are in an autocratic state. The spending ought to be a joint decision. The monies ought to be shared and decisions ought to be shared. Two people can have a different attitude about saving and how much to save, that is something you can talk about in marriage counselling.
If your partner only wants to keep all the monies separate and they only put a percentage into the shared pot and they feel that everyone has to put in 50% even if the earnings are dramatically different, then there is a problem. I have seen many cases where the party that earns the lion’s share of the money only wants to put in 50%, and the other person will have to put in every dime they earn and still won’t get to 50%. As a result, they can never keep up “their end of the finances” according to their spouse and never has a dime of spending money. This is unfair and autocratic and can spell he end of a marriage because the spouse who has no money and will eventually get tired of it.
Some people also fight over the sharing of household chores, and ultimately this will all reflect in the intimacy a couple does it does not have and the pleasure and lack of pleasure in each other’s company.
What I Suggest…
I strongly suggest to people that before marriage, they go for marriage counselling so that they can see what they agree on and don’t agree on and build the constitution of their marriage.
If you have a marriage that needs “fixing” and you are trying to rebuild it, then building a constitution which is based on openness, integrity, honesty and trust, is the goal. If the marriage cannot be rebuilt on those bases, then the marriage is doomed.
Many marriages limp along with the spouses being “two ships that pass in the night”. That is not much of a marriage. The question is who would want to be in such a marriage.
If marriage counselling works and works as it should, at the end of the day, you will have a relationship that is stronger, deeper, emotionally fulfilling, physically fulfilling, happy and satisfying.