1. Is marriage counseling successful in fixing broken marriages?

This is a question that I get asked quite often by prospective clients. The answer is often times not satisfactory, but it’s the only one I can give:

I cannot save any relationship. I can give you all the information you need in order to save yours, I can facilitate the changes needed, I can guide you and help you progress, but I cannot do the work for you. Marriage counselling is not a magic wand that can be waved over your relationship, fixing everything on the spot. Marriage counselling is a tool you can use if you choose to do so. It requires a willingness from the parties involved, it requires you to put in the effort, to go and actively apply what you learn during the sessions to make it a success.

So; how effective is marriage counselling? How effective do you want it to be?

2. What can a spouse do to encourage the other partner to attend marriage counseling sessions?

Unfortunately we cannot make decisions or choices for our spouses or partners. Technically speaking, we can only put the request out there and hope for the best. In some cases though, if done early enough in a relationship, the mere fact that a party is willing to make an appointment with a counselor is enough of an indication that he/she is really trying to do something about the problems. If you are in a situation where your partner is hesitant to go for counselling, understanding why is important.

Often times it’s the fear of the unknown that has him/her worried: My role as counselor is not to judge you, not to preach to you, not to choose sides; my role is to identify the changes that need to happen and to guide you through it. If your partner understands and believes that, maybe he/she will feel more comfortable about going for counselling.

3. What are the general perceptions out there about the services you offer?

In my experience, the perception seems to be quite positive. I think people are; generally speaking, intelligent enough to know that if we are emotionally involved in a situation, objectivity is a bit difficult. I also feel that the people who do come for counselling has a genuine desire to fix their relationships and are in desperate need of the “how to’s” that counselling does offer.

4. What is the number one leading cause of divorce in South Africa?

According to http://www.edivorce.co.za the lack of communication is the single biggest cause for divorce and account for almost 70{97fa4f7e3f90de63208dbf923bf7383c3bb584adf96b64fde63584d1e00110d6} of all breakdowns in a marriage relationship. And I concur with this. No emotional connection is possible if we don’t communicate with one another. To invest in a relationship, to meet each other’s needs, to be happy, I have to know you and you have to know me. If we don’t communicate with one another – how is this possible. 

5. When you are counseling married couples how often do you come across conflict caused by social networks?

Quite often. Social networks have made it so so easy to connect with people all around the world. We as human beings are need driven. We have a need to feel special, to be wanted, to feel connected, emotionally, spiritually, cognitively…social networks mean that we have the possibility of this connection at our finger tips!

There is a sense of safety also connected to this – seeing as it’s not an in-person – thing, I am almost hidden in what I do.

6. How many couples have you come across that are in an open marriages?

I have several couples who are in open marriages. In all of the cases that I have dealt with, it started as a once off thing suggested by one of the partners. The other one went along with it, for various reasons, maybe even enjoyed the excitement and the thrill of it initially. The end of it, in all my cases thus far, however, is quite negative.

Feelings of abandonment, jealousy, depression, guilt, mistrust, lack of respect, disappointment and discontent, sadness, unhappiness, anger, betrayal  – to name but a few – a rife.

7. What are the problems usually attributed to lack of sex in marriages?

I think the general perception is that a lack of sex in a relationship is due to finding someone else to fulfill that specific need. But in actual fact, it’s the loss in emotional connection between couples that are the main reason for a decline in sex for couples. We need that emotional connection if we are in a committed relationship, to be strong and secure, if it’s not – for whatever reason – the lack of sex will be a symptom of the relationship not being okay.

8. What are your thoughts of AshleyMadison.com?

I can understand that AshleyMadison.com fulfills a quite a number of needs for many people; from emotional right through to the physical. It’s sad to know that that connection that people are longing for; is in fact possible in a committed relationship if you choose the work at it, create it and sustain it. What’s more is that the committed connection will be more, more satisfying and more lasting than an affair will ever be. Take away the thrill of it, the danger aspect, the secrecy, the excitement – and what are you left with?

How can something like this give you a lasting sense of contentment, of satisfaction, of achievement, of happiness – not built on distrust and the thrill of the secrecy, but built on loyalty, love and mutual respect, – gained through hard work, honesty and trust.

Vita Nova Counselling Center
Pretoria East
Anri van den Berg
Marriage and Relationship Counsellor.