Last week I wrote about the Federal Government making $200 available to for pre-marital counselling. The Federal Government believes the move will “strengthen relationships, create more happiness and stability in the home and create a better environment for children”. If only it were that easy. Pre-Marital counselling may help couples understand their expectations of each other; it may also shed light on relationship needs and help in setting goals. However, I am skeptical as to whether pre-marriage counselling will make any real difference to a couple’s capacity to deal with major life changing events that were not present at the time the couple married but arise during the course of the marriage. How can a couple possibly prepare (in pre-marriage counselling) for some of the cruel blows that life throws at them? How can couples be pre- equipped to deal with a partner developing a mental health illness, losing a child, having a child with a severe disability, being involved in a serious accident, or going bankrupt, just to name a few? Today I will write about the impact mental health can have on marriages. Mental illness is a growing problem in Australia and is not always present when a couple get married. Mental illness can increase stress in relationships and lower marital satisfaction. Mental health can strain finances, affect sexual relations, and create tensions around caring and the division of labour – leading to diminished marital satisfaction (Booth and Johnson 1994) In Australia, it is estimated that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. When a partner is suffering depression, it can put a huge strain on the relationship, the children and the wider family. While one partner becomes emotionally withdrawn, uninterested, and continually sad, the other may become anxious, fearful, angry or resentful. The partner without depression may be overwhelmed by extra tasks that their partner is too tired to undertake, they may even feel somehow responsible for the illness itself. The devastating impact often leaves one partner asking: “How can it be that the person I loved has become so distant? Who is this person”? “This is not the person I married……” Depression is still a widely misunderstood condition. The array of emotions, or lack thereof are very difficult for someone not suffering from it to fully understand and even more difficult to witness in a partner. It is important to remember that depression can strike anyone, for a variety of reasons – many of which can be entirely unrelated to the relationship. When on partner is trying to deal with the sudden change of a partner, and the significant other losses that surround living with a depressed partner…… that is the time to ask for counselling.
- Written by Annemi Olivier
- Published: 28 Nov 2016