Marriage and family therapy or counseling may not be prevalent in our society but whenever you have the opportunity, take advantage of it. It helps. And it works.


No therapist has his/her work cut out for him/her while engaged in marriage counseling. As in many issues we have to deal with as human beings, there are many factors responsible for couples’ vow of “For Better For Worse” heading for the rocks before one knows it. In the olden days, at least in the environment I grew up, divorce was a rarity. Not so much because everyone was happy in their relationship but because of the stigma associated with it. These days, divorce has become half a penny! Some people still make efforts to salvage what remains of their relationship by going to therapy. However, some couples attend therapy with ill-conceived notions. For example, either or both parties assume that the therapist is like a high court judge who is going to apportion blame or pass a guilty verdict on one or the other. Wrong. One of the reasons therapists do not apportion blame or pass guilty verdicts is because of the fact that couples attending therapy are still somewhat hopeful that something could be worked out to salvage their marriage and thus they only choose what they want to talk about. In other words, the therapist is not being told the whole story and s/he is only able to extract information on the basis of the limited answers those in therapy volunteer. And again, the therapist is conscious of the fact that s/he is not a judicial officer.

There are myriad factors that can cause tension in a marital relationship: Some can be controlled, while others cannot and only require some understanding from the concerned parties. Top of these are communication (or lack of it), finance, level of education, cultural clashes, the environment (past and/or present), hammering on negativities, religion, children, trust issues, etc. The big hidden one not usually discussed or talked about is a traumatic past – experienced by either or both parties. Some partners would prefer to take their painful/horrible pasts (including the ones not caused by them) to the grave, rather than share these with someone considered to be their “life partners.” While one knows the truth, the other is unaware of this and is just operating at face value.

Nothing makes a couple in therapy feel better than hearing from the therapist that we all have issues in our marital lives. Spoiler alert: I am a therapist; I am married (for more than a quarter-century) and my wife and I still argue and “fight” (sometimes over mundane and unproductive things) such that we may not even talk to each other for hours, while under the same roof. I still receive the “silent treatment.” And I am that therapist who is supposed to “fix” other people’s marriage problems. Fortunately for me, my wife would not, for any reason, refuse to prepare meals or perform whatever roles she feels a responsible partner should perform. And I have never refused any meal prepared by my wife, even when we are not engaged in conversation. Now to the issues at hand.

Relationships (marital) are shaped by a number of things as earlier mentioned. And the list is inexhaustible. However, the number one question people need to ask themselves before going into a relationship is: Why am I in the relationship? For love? Children? Economic reasons? Fame? Sex? Partnership?

Divorce rates are high these days because the moment either of those in a relationship perceives that the reason for their being involved in that relationship is not being met, there is usually no patience to work it out. In my other line of job as a medical social worker, I meet couples who have been married for over fifty/sixty years and I get different answers whenever I ask them the “secret” behind their long relationship. Some would attribute it to the grace of God, some others (especially the women) would say (sometimes, jokingly) that their partners always allow them to have the last word on all issues.

When you marry for love, it transcends everything. It means you do not have any difficulty in overlooking the wrong-doing of your partner. Instead of demanding for answers all the time, you learn to see his/her challenge as yours. If this article is being published in a Christian journal, this probably would be the only thing I would lay emphasis on. There are however, other things involved.

The one area not frequently talked about and which has a lot of effects in a marital relationship is a traumatic past. Some people were sexually abused in their childhood mostly by known members of their family, in sordid experiences of incest. The fear of that past continues to haunt some people.


The lack of qualitative communication between partners is a bane. With the advent of technology, couples hardly converse anymore. I have seen couples in therapy (and I am not making this up) reporting that they text each other while sitting on different couches in their living room or while in the same house. Spend quality time with your spouse.

The environment we all grew up in has a tremendous effect on who we turn out to be. When you grow up in a household where there is always rancour, with no respect between your parents, you automatically assume that as normal. Couples should understand that there are lines of respect that should not be crossed in dealing with each other. Respect begets respect.

Children, believe it or not, could be sources of friction in a marital relationship. When you transfer the affection you have for your spouse to your children; when you see your children as your friends rather than seeing them as your children; when you confide more in your children than you do your spouse; when you allow your children to “play” you both by knocking your heads against each other. You ought to remember that they were not there when you started. And all things being equal, they would leave you and your nest would become empty. The process of adjustment could be difficult, which accounts for spousal divorce after so many years of marriage.

Money in itself is not the source of discord in a marital relationship. It is its management/mismanagement. Have you ever wondered why poor people could have a blissful marital life, while the rich could not? I have been asked whether couples should keep a joint account. It depends. It is not a one-size-fits-all. What works for one may not work for the other. If you keep a joint account, it should be an open book to both of you. For our patriarchal society with the men domineering over the decision making process, the wife should have the opportunity to keep some of her money so she would not have to be asking for money when, for example, she needs sanitary pads. When the woman is making enough money, she should not hesitate to share in the burden of house-keeping.

The one area not frequently talked about and which has a lot of effects in a marital relationship is a traumatic past. Some people were sexually abused in their childhood mostly by known members of their family, in sordid experiences of incest. The fear of that past continues to haunt some people. And, it is not what they want to talk about. It is not what they think they should talk about. They think it is too late to talk about it. Whereas, it affects their sexual lives and other aspects of their relationships. It affects their social interactions. Whenever they remember that horrible past, their moods change instantly. They change the subject whenever their partners seem suspicious and asks seemingly telling questions. While it is difficult to erase the past, it helps talking about it to someone who will not judge you. That is what a relationship should be about. Being mutually non-judgmental; taking each other as you are.

Marriage and family therapy or counseling may not be prevalent in our society but whenever you have the opportunity, take advantage of it. It helps. And it works.

Jide Omotinugbon, a psychotherapist and medical social worker, writes from Kentucky, USA. He can be reached via jideo18@yahoo.com.