Lockdown might be easing but the needs for couples and families are not.
MFL Westminster are inviting different voices to share their insights to help support and nourish marriage and family life.
Our thanks to Catherine MacFarlane, a trustee of Catholic Marriage Care for this article
Did you know Marriage Care is the largest faith-based provider of relationship support services and marriage preparation in England and Wales? We are strong advocates that all lives are enriched by cultivating and sustaining healthy life-long relationships. As part of this commitment, our relationship counselling is available to any couple experiencing difficulties.
Born in a time of adversity
Now in its 75th year, Marriage Care was established in 1946 as the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council in response to the pressure on family relationships following the end of the Second World War. The Catholic bishops at the time instigated a team of volunteers to work with couples to support them as they endeavoured to rekindle love and rebuild relationships after six years of war and separation. It is an interesting point to ponder that the same counselling service that was put in place then will be much needed as we come out of the lockdown with the huge stresses placed on couple relationships.
The ethos back in 1946 was on helping couples cope with the difficulty of separation and return, after being apart for extended periods. As we move out of lockdown, we are available to help couples and families, who have been living together in close quarters, managing (or not managing) each other’s frustrations and worries about the future.
Here for you
Daily life as we know it has been hugely impacted by the pandemic. Just as we've all had to adapt to changes in the world, so too have relationships come under stress. Whether you’ve been together for years, or are in the early days of a relationship, self-isolation isn’t always conducive to maintaining a strong healthy bond and emotional connection. What is your experience?
Within lockdown, couples may find their primary relationship is developing a sense of ‘social distancing’ in the way that they are managing the stress of day to day living; whether that is because both are working from home, and juggling the home schooling, or maybe both are furloughed worrying about potential redundancy. The impact of these difficulties and stresses can test the strongest of relationships.
No matter how much we love our partner or like the idea of having more time together, being with them 24/7 over an extended period isn’t altogether healthy. Couples have found themselves spending more time together than ever before, and may well find they are getting under each other’s feet, which can easily lead to arguments. How has it been juggling home schooling, having to share the same computer, scheduling our conference calls, or just simply who’s turn it is to cook?
The following request (unedited) was received by our counselling appointments service in May:
“I am looking for counseling for my marriage. We were struggling before coronavirus hit us and now things are even worse! I am a vulnerable person so am currently off work my husband has been furloughed so we are stuck together with our 2 children and things are escalating rapidly! I am looking for online counselling sessions and financially we don’t have much to contribute especially with coronavirus affecting us being off work.”
Does this strike a chord with you?
The wartime parallels that have been drawn by some of our politicians and newspapers appeal to some, and it is true to say that the experience of war that a generation lived through profoundly impacted many family relationships. Living through lockdown is different to spending six years as a country at war, but we know that the changes that are being brought about as a result of the current pandemic will have a lasting impact on families long after the lockdown is lifted. We are here to help.
With a strong relationship you may well have found that being with your partner continuously has brought you closer together. However, if a relationship is already under some pressure the chances are that the lockdown has exacerbated or highlighted areas of strain. All couples will have disagreements or arguments; this is completely normal and healthy. It’s when the disagreements become rows that lash out verbally and look to cast blame that the situation deteriorates
Marriage Care, drawing from Catholic Social Teaching, is proud to be a donation only counselling service. There is no set fee for a counselling session, rather we ask for a contribution towards the cost of each session. No one is ever turned away for financial reasons.
All our counsellors receive rigorous training, and on-going supervision to ensure they work to the highest ethical standards. They are highly trained professionals who receive no payment for the sessions they provide, giving their time and expertise on an entirely voluntary basis, because they believe that healthy relationships support a strong society where children grow up with a secure family base. Relationship counselling has continued throughout the lockdown using Zoom.