A recent declaration in the media that it is now the “new normal” for marriages to be ending at the 14 year mark suggests that we are becoming a throw-away society and divorce is an inevitable fact of life; suggestions that must not go unchallenged.
At Family Life our main aim is to encourage couples to invest in the wellbeing of their primary relationship. An often blasè attitude and flippant comment suggesting “your first marriage is for the kids, and your second marriage is for you”, avoids the obvious consideration – that all relationships need maintenance.
This is not merely looking at the world through rose coloured glasses. Agreed, relationships can be hard work. And life can sometimes get in the way. Communication breaks down. Relationships break down.
But let’s not settle for the modern “inevitable” outcome when there is help, particularly from many experts in the not-for-profit sector. By improving communication and strengthening the understanding and skills for respectful, healthy relationships, couples can improve their lives and relationships and the lives of those around them.
Help in many forms is readily available. There are many ways a counsellor can assist individuals and couples to improve their communication. Regular relationship “tune-ups” with the support of an expert can address issues before they reach crisis point.
As a social enterprise of Family Life, Heartlinks specialises in couples relationship education and counselling, and is focused on creating shared value, investing back into Family Life’s programs for transforming the lives of children, young people and families.
And we do have the statistics that show these programs are working. A review of Family Life’s Relationship Review and Renew (RRR) program found some significant and promising results that need consideration in the current debate.
By way of background the program offers assistance on a number of levels such as:
- gaining clarity and confidence about what steps to take next with a relationship;
- understanding what has happened to the relationship;
- looking at both sides of relationship problems – yours and your spouse’s; and
- making well informed decisions about the future of your relationships.
The review of the RRR pilot program found, that similar to US research, 60 percent of participating individuals decided to stay in their relationship and seek further help, 9 percent of individuals decided to separate and not seek further help, and more than 75 percent of couples who attended the program attended up to five sessions.
Agreed, divorce is not a failure. But a healthy approach to improving communication and life skills will go a long way to improving the wellbeing of a relationship. Let’s not give in to the “new normal” and give up on our relationships too easily.
About Family Life CEO Jo Cavanagh OAM:
Since 1976, Jo has worked for the community as a social work practitioner, researcher, consultant, manager, leader, and social entrepreneur. Her passion is the wellbeing of children.
Jo commenced working at Family Life in 1994 and has been Chief Executive Officer since 1996.
Family Life is an innovative community service organisation that has provided support to families in the greater bayside region since 1970 as well as a centre of research, knowledge and innovation delivering measurable social change and impact.
In 1990, Jo was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to study the prevention of child abuse in the United States. In 2013, Jo was awarded an Order of Australia for her outstanding achievement and service. As past National President of Family Services Australia, Jo has worked with the Australian Government to implement the 2005 Family Law reforms, and continues to explore how the whole community can be involved in supporting struggling families and solving pressing social problems. In November 2015 Jo accepted the position of Adjunct Associate Professor with the Faculty of Business and Law at Swinburne University.