CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 22 April 2017

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Change in life puts stress on marriages

HONG KONG (SE): A study conducted by the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council in cooperation with the Department of Social Work and Social Administration University of Hong Kong shows that a change in the stage of life is proving to be a source of tension between husbands and wives.

It also reveals that couples married for 25 years or more tend to be less satisfied with their marriages than younger couples.

The council used information from interviews with 121 couples between September 2015 and May last year and the assessment will serve as a reference for the development of the marriage formation ministry offered by the Advisory Council.

The couples interviewed gave their lowest marks to expression of feelings, closeness of relationship and joint decision-making.

Couples married for more than 25 years were found to be less satisfied with their marriages in areas like self-value, disappointment in their marriage promises, conflict settlement and communication.

The study also found that things that trigger tension in a marriage are usually the result of significant changes in the stage of life, such as the birth of children or retirement.

The couples pointed out that such occurrences demand changes in the roles played by all members of the family. Other issues are the differing values of husband and wife and the lack of emotional management, as well as the lack of a supporting network.

Some respondents said their way of dealing with these difficulties was to remain silent, but finally it led to emotional problems.

Two scholars involved in assessing the survey, Grace Leung Suk-man and Cat Chung Lai-ping, said more education is needed to assist couples in moving from one stage of life to the next, as well as to upgrade the ability of married people in both understanding their spouses and self-expression.

They added that attention needs to be paid to people’s understanding of the meaning of marriage.

They also suggested the areas of both formation for marriage and counselling services for senior couples need to be upgraded, and better training of social workers and marriage counsellors is necessary.

They encouraged husbands to seek help when they are finding married life difficult, as male respondents to the study said that they are not inclined to do so.

Teresa Yip Lai-pik, the supervisor at the Grace and Joy Integrated Family Service Centre in Kennedy Town, encouraged couples to understand the needs of their spouse and do as many things as possible together.

She also said it is important for people to look at their own faults, clear their emotional problems regularly and seek counselling services where necessary.

Female respondents were found to be less happy with their marriages than their male counterparts. Eight per cent said they often consider divorce or separation, while 16 per cent said they are discontented with their marriage.

As much as 26 per cent said divorce was a reasonable choice. Twenty per cent said their husbands were not open or honest enough, while 21 per cent said they did not understand their husbands.

Leung said the low level of satisfaction among female respondents is related to their stronger need for mutual understanding and sharing in a relationship, which leaves them open to disappointment.

On the other hand, Yip said that women often carry the heavy responsibilities in the family, as they are usually the ones responsible for household matters and issues related to their children, as well as the management of foreign domestic workers.

These aspects can be sources of pressure for them.

Two of the couples asked to share some tips for a successful marriage cited issues like giving way to their spouse, understanding the needs of each other and developing common hobbies.

The council dealt with a total of 355 new counselling cases last year. The highest percentage of difficulties were in the areas of communication and conflict settlement, which accounted for 43 per cent.

The second most common issues were extra-marital affairs, which accounted for 19 per cent, followed by personal emotional problems, 11 per cent, and role expectation issues, 10 per cent.

A social worker from the Advisory Council said one common reason for couples to seek help is keeping the family intact while their children are growing up.

The role of a social worker is to help them express their emotions and improve their communication skills to assist them in rebuilding their relationships.

Government statistics show that 51,400 couples were married last year, while over 20,000 divorces were recorded during the same time.

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