Relationships can often be hard. Ask any couple who has been married for any length of time, and they will wholeheartedly agree.

33933367 - couple not talking to each other in therapists office Problems in your marriage? Therapy could be the answerAs with any precious plant, you must nurture your relationship, giving it lots of love and care. The soaring stats of people giving up and going down the divorce route is hardly encouraging. And yet, there are those couples who manage to stay together — in sickness and in health, through emotional detachment, depression, infidelity, and a host of other problems — until ‘death do they part.’

Relationship expert, Anjula Mutanda, encourages couples to put the work in. “People sometimes believe that if they have walked down the aisle or lived together for 10 years then the joyful glow of the early days should just continue. But we have got to put the effort in here – just as we do in the other areas of our lives.”

31066702 - portrait of loving african american couple in countryside Problems in your marriage? Therapy could be the answerWhile there was a time that society attached a stigma to counselling, now it would seem that it could be a couple’s last, best chance at recovery and a lasting relationship. If you are considering seeing a marriage counsellor, the following dos and don’ts might help you get the most out of the experience:

* Do acknowledge that there is a problem. Typically, one partner fails to see a problem where the other partner does. To this end, both partners need to accept that the problem exists.

* Do take responsibility. It is rare that one partner is solely responsible for problems in the marriage. Owning your part — through actions, deeds, and words or the lack of them — is paramount to resolving the conflict.

* Do change your behaviour. While this may be the most difficult step, it is the one thing that could salvage a relationship. This can include doing or not doing (and saying or not saying) certain things. The rule of thumb is simple: if any action, word, or deed will be hurtful to your partner, then don’t do it.

* Don’t have unreasonable expectations. The role of a marriage counsellor is to help a couple understand one another better, not “fix” the perceived wrong in one or the other partner. The change is for both partners to make and maintain.

You don’t have to wait until ‘something is wrong’ before seeking therapy, simply regarding counselling as an investment in your relationship, or a regular MOT of the health of your relationship is a good start.

Finally, when in doubt, remember the Golden Rule: treat people the way you would want to be treated.

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