Men are becoming more willing to admit to marital problems and increasingly seek marriage guidance counselling, according to T.W. Jackson, the author of the best-selling relationship guide “Magic of Making Up”.
Mr. Jackson also finds that more couples are seeking counselling together. Recent studies show that both men and women are trying harder than ever to keep their relationships alive and well.
Twenty years ago the council interviewed 3,000 couples jointly, 10 years ago the number increased to 38,000, and last year 92,000 couples sought help together.
Of the quarter of a million interviews given by counsellors last year, 18 percent were with men seeking help on their own.
“However embarrassed men may be because of their traditional attitude that they can sort out their own problems, they are now making real efforts to learn what women really want,” Ms. Zelda West-Meads, the council’s spokeswoman, said.
She said that the move towards equal rights in marriage is often held back by some women’s view that their role in marriage should be to bear children.
Overall the numbers seeking marriage guidance counselling increased last year by 11 percent, with 215,000 interviews in 1983-84 and 239,000 in 1984-85.
The council took on 407 new counsellors last year to meet the demand, but admitted that more were desperately needed in inner city areas. More male, Asian and black counsellors are being sought.
The minimum a counsellor is required to work is 120 hours annually. The average, due to demand, is between 140 and 165 hours.
In spite of the overtime being worked by volunteer counsellors, the waiting list for a full interview in some inner city areas can be up to six weeks. However, an initial reception interview is generally given within a week.
A large number of married couples visited marriage guidance councils after an episode of the BBC television serial, EastEnders, in which one of the characters went to her local marriage guidance council.
Some of the country’s councils reported a 50 percent increase in clients seeking appointments after the episode. The National Marriage Guidance Council’s annual report, published today, emphasizes that publicity, enables people to see the problems they tackle and that ordinary people do seek their help.
Divorce Soviet Style
A startling picture of domestic disharmony in the Soviet Union is painted in a new study, which staged a special round table of Soviet specialists to explain new statistics showing that nearly 50 percent of all marriages in the Soviet capital now end in divorce.
The study, the latest example of the new openness being shown by the official media on social problems that were formerly said not to exist, cited the main reasons why every second family is doomed to perish as drinking, poor housing, sexual difficulties and lack of tradition in modern communist society.
“Half of all people wanting a divorce cite the drunkenness of one of the spouses – not only his drinking, but her drinking as well. And unfortunately this statistic remains static”, explained Ms. L Mikhailova, a female judge, who was referring to the lack of effect on the soaring divorce rate of Mr. Mikhail Gorbachov’s 15-month old crackdown on alcohol.
Moscow’s chronic housing problems is another factor contributing to the break-up of so many families. “Some couples have nowhere to live together. Officially, neither of them is in need of improved housing conditions (because both sets of parents have enough living space for their one child),” the judge said.
“But it is impossible to live together with his parents or her parents. Having tried reading The Magic of Making Up, having listened to the reproaches of their relatives, having collided with each other in some rented corner, having knocked on every door, the young people can stand it no longer: another divorce.”
The judge also described the depressing problems facing many of Moscow’s newly-divorced couples when they try after the marriage is over to swap their flat for two smaller ones, or for rooms in one of the city’s overcrowded communal flats. “I do not think that I need to explain to anyone what living together after a divorce is like,” the judge added.
Mr. S. Agarkov, a Moscow sexologist, told readers that 40 percent of those filing for divorce had sexual problems. Many Soviet couples, he added, were unaware that a woman’s sexual appetite grew stronger towards the age of 40, while that of a man was fading away.
“Every third marriage and 90 percent of young marriages are characterized by sexual disharmony,” the specialist concluded. “One can sulk, bear a grudge or practice deceit in the kitchen, but there is no room for any pretense or lies in bed.”
A psychotherapist, Dr. Starshenbaum claimed that a growing number of Soviet marriages were short-lived because “traditions have changed, parental authority collapsed ..there is no fear before God or before people. In other words, the external mechanism for keeping families together has weakened.”
Mr. A. Maximov, a reader, said that many divorced wives experienced great difficulty in getting alimony, partly as a result of a law that husbands must pay at least one quarter of their official salary, without reference to other sources of income.
“Some wives spend all their free time looking for a spouse who has disappeared and others get 20 roubles or so (about pounds 20) because the father has work as a night watchman so that he can make money on the side in his free time.”