As I was sitting at my desk having some lunch I read an article about how beneficial marriage counselling and preparation courses are. And why are they so beneficial? Well apart from helping couples through their marriages, and helping prepare couples to be wed, it was discovered that for every pound couples spend on counselling, taxpayers could save up to £11.50.
The Department of Education commissioned this independent evaluation as part of the government’s ongoing policy to support marriage. Relationship breakdown is estimated to cost the UK economy £46 billion each year. Therefore, the uptake of these services such as those offered by Relate’s couple’s counselling and Marriage Care’s marriage preparation is essentially helping the economy, as well as individual couples.
Mark Molden, the Chief Executive of Marriage Care stated that “We know that relationship support works and we would encourage people of all ages to find out more about how the services evaluated in this report could help them at different stages of their relationship.”
This got me thinking about my dissertation, where I suggested that more emphasise should be placed on marriage and relationship education. Marriage and Relationship Education (MRE) is currently being used in Australia and the United States of America as part of family policy. MRE is arguably less stigmatising, less risky, less intrusive and less expensive. These arguments in favour of MRE suggest that couples are more likely to benefit from MRE programmes. MRE programmes should arguably be incorporated into public and private sectors. Such integration would allow current organisations to undertake marriage strengthening and in essence allow MRE to become a natural supplement to an organisation’s principal work. Therefore, there is the argument that MRE programmes could be implemented in community settings, religious organisations, universities and school.
MRE has two general concepts: to develop communication and problem solving skills that are central to a healthy and stable relationship and to provide didactic presentation of information that correlates with marital quality. The aim of MRE is to enhance marital stability as well as educating individuals how to approach problems and conflicts that arise in marriage. MRE could effectively support dynamic risk factors such as realistic relationship expectations and effective couple communication. These types of programmes should be introduced at effective stages in an individual’s life and relationship. Clearly , after the decision to divorce would be illogical. MRE should be offered in high schools, premarital, and during transition periods including parenthood, relocation, major illness and unemployment.
Another suggestion is that MRE could be provided over the internet. I have recently read a book by Richard Susskind called “Tomorrow’s Lawyers” which identifies that the legal world must change due to technological advances. Therefore, in line with Susskind’s argument about the future of legal services, the types of programmes mentioned in this blog could be performed over the internet, especially for lower risk couples where face-to-face education and counselling is not necessary.
MRE programmes are in accordance with Relate’s marriage counselling service and Marriage Care’s marriage preparation course and this then begs the question if the government should spend time investing in MRE programmes in order to help couples, and as we saw at the beginning of this blog, essentially help the economy.
As Mark Molden also said when talking about these services: “ it is not just about getting support when there’s a crisis; it’s about building and maintaining strong relationships which see people through everything that happens during our increasingly busy and fast-paced lives.”
There is the problem that these services need better advertising strategies behind them and better signposting so that more couples are aware of them. The article also states that once couples’ already used the services they were more likely to be able to access relationship support in the future.
Therefore, it seems that relationship counselling and educational preparation courses should be encouraged in the UK and this could then help both couples and, well the economy.