Psychological Self-Help

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Marriage enrichment groups:  Marriage encounter, marriage skills
courses, and support groups
Some mental health centers and a few marriage counselors offer
small classes for persons wanting to work on marital problems. Most of
these courses describe different kinds of marital problems and teach
various skills, such as listening, empathy, assertiveness, negotiation,
etc., that will help with relationship problems. Ordinarily, these classes
are for couples who do not have serious psychiatric problems and who
are motivated to improve their relationships on their own. The cost is
less than couple's therapy. There are some advantages of groups,
including hearing the problems others have--and the solutions that
work for them. Also, support groups for marital concerns exist in a few
communities. Call your Mental Health Center to find out what groups
and classes are available. 
Marriage Encounter weekend programs are designed for couples
who do not have serious problems but want to enrich and revitalize
their love. There will be some group discussion of marriage and some
experience for the couple that will facilitate closeness, warmth, and
affection. Churches often sponsor these programs, but you do not
need to be religious to attend. They are not expensive. Call 1-800-
795-LOVE to find out about these worthwhile activities. 
Couples or marital therapy
When the friction heats up in marriages, more people (maybe 10-
20%) than ever before are considering getting professional help. That
is very wise. We may be making progress. But I am still disturbed that
most do not seek help. What is wrong with the other 80%? Getting
therapy seems so reasonable to me; it seems that every friend, every
parent, every child, every relative, and every professional person in
contact with the unhappy couple should recommend counseling. Why
don't they? Divorce is such an emotionally laden decision (perhaps
more so than who to marry), we need help seeing the situation
realistically, trying to resolve the problems, deciding what other
alternatives exist, considering the consequences to others, making
reasonable plans for our future, etc. Anyone going though marital hell
or a divorce needs a friend to talk to and vent with, no doubt, but
he/she needs much more than that--a wise, experienced, unemotional
but empathic and caring counselor (the earlier the better). 
As soon as there is continuing conflict in a marriage, both partners
should openly acknowledge the situation to themselves and each
other. They both should show their concern by immediately trying to
rectify the situation using self-help methods. Read if you don't have
any ideas. If the couple can not make any progress within a month or
so (or if it seems like an overwhelming problem and emotions are
intense), they should immediately go together to a qualified counselor.
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