More millennial couples are going to marriage counselling early on – here’s why

According to a new survey, 23 per cent of people have attended couples counselling before being marriage or engaged. Ned Frisk/Getty Images

More and more married millennial couples are seeking out marriage counselling early on in their relationships – a move the majority say helps them deal with major hurdles like communication and affair problems, a new survey finds.

According to the survey of 1,000 people by MidAmerica Nazarene University, out of three generations surveyed (millennials, baby boomers and Gen Xers), millennials have attended marriage counselling the most (51 per cent) and those who have been married three to five years are more likely to attend such counseling services (57 per cent).

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But while couples believed they were attending counselling to work out their issues involving children, work, communication and money/debt (in that order), counselling revealed the actual reasons for their marriage problems to be issues involving communication, affairs, money/debt, and children (in that order).

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In terms of how helpful the sessions were, 29 per cent found them helpful while 16 per cent found them to be very helpful. Only 13 per cent said they were not.

It’s an emerging trend that relationship expert Chantal Heide says is a positive change.

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“I thought it was interesting to see the rise in number of couples willing to go into counselling,” Heide says. “I think fear of the realities of divorce and the fact that marriage does offer a higher level of economic security is a factor, especially given how Canadian housing prices have gone up recently. Unfortunately for many people it’s either live with a partner, or live with mom and dad. And getting counseling to help work through issues can seem like a great idea compared to the alternative for many.”

The reason for the generational differences, Heide says, may be due to a difference in attitude towards marriage.

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Baby Boomers, she says, had a more “stick to it” mentality, while Gen Xers were more willing to bounce through life in a more hedonistic manner.

“In my mind, the rise of counseling with millennials means they’re taking their feelings of insecurity seriously and more are open to dealing with their fears head on,” Heide says. “Our culture is shifting from one of blame to one that often uses to the word ‘accountability,’ and social media feeds are filled with memes about dealing with life, depression and difficult people by empowering yourself to change our own situation.”

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In her experience, however, insecurity seems to be at the core of most issues among young couples.

This feeling, she says, can bleed itself into many issues. But addressing a sense of security has a wide reaching effect on many other relationship problems.

For example, communication issues stem from often feeling like one person is not important enough to the other.

But sometimes people are hesitant in entering couples counselling because they don’t know what to expect. For example, 52 per cent of people say they are interested in trying marriage counselling, but when breaking it down by sex, 55 per cent of females are more likely than males (46 per cent) to be interested in attending counselling sessions.

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“There’s always something to learn from professionals about how we function as human beings,” Heide says. “Try different types of counselling since you’ll gain something from each.”

Test out the waters by committing to a three-day, intensive program or at least three sessions, Heide suggests. Do your best to find a counselor or therapist that clicks with you, and if they’re not jiving then move on to another.

“You will learn something valuable at least about yourself, even if it doesn’t end up changing your relationship,” Heide says. “But sometimes it can take time for what you and your partner have learned to finally become tools that change your relationship. Be patient with the process.”

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