Could a ‘marriage health check’ be the secret to happily ever after?

There are many stages of life – serious illness, the death of a parent, job changes and issues associated with children – that put extra stress on a relationship.

Voysey believes partnerships have a greater chance of recovery if problems are dealt with sooner rather than later, and that even newly-weds or couples who have just moved in together need to be wary of the patterns they create.

Reaching a crisis point at which one person is having an affair or feels desperately miserable can be avoided by more time spent reflecting on the health of the relationship.

«None of us are taught how to be a good partner or how to have a happy marriage,» she says. «We might only have our parents’ relationship as a model _ and then we just work it out as we go.

«We all bring emotional baggage into a relationship. At the start most couples are good at talking and being honest, but as time goes by and life gets busier and more stressful, it gets much harder.

«I encourage my clients to acknowledge their baggage and that of their partner, so they know what they are most sensitive about and can then work out how to understand and support each other.»

Voysey says relationship counselling provides couples with practical tools and strategies to use in daily life.

«Having couple therapy is not a sign that your relationship is in trouble. It just shows that you want to improve it and that you care about your partner and your family,» she says. «I see couples who come for two or three visits and then check in with me every year, or when they are in gridlock about a particular issue. Most people say they wish they had got help earlier in their relationship.»

Does your marriage need a health check? Voysey says these are the problem areas to watch:

Communication You only talk about logistics or have stopped talking altogether. Are you feeling very disconnected and alone?

Arguments Are your fights increasing in frequency and intensity? You clash and never resolve issues and often feel resentful.

Abandonment Has your partner let you down at a critical time or isn’t there for you emotionally? A common time for women is when they give birth or, for men, if they lose their job.

Intimacy Do you fixate on having sex with another person, or are you seriously considering an affair and how you can get away with it?

Trust Are you keeping secrets from your partner? Do you trust your partner or do you feel they don’t trust you for no reason?

Fun There will be difficult times in every marriage but has the fun, friendship or playfulness disappeared from yours without reason?

This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale May 19.

Laura is a freelance writer for Domain

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