Jennifer Rahme-Edwards addresses the Roundtable on Couples on the Brink
Aug 12, 2011
Family and Relationship Psychologist – CatholicCare, Diocese of Parramatta
As a family and relationship psychologist I encounter many couples “on the brink” of divorce (both Christian and non-Christian). I have found a foundation in Catholic teachings and beliefs about marriage to be fundamental in the course of action I plan with each couple. As a Catholic, I am privileged to know that marriage is more than just a contract between two people; it is an eternal union of two souls. As such, I encounter not only a possible relationship breakdown but also a spiritual consequence for each individual in the couple if the divorce proceeds.
With this in mind, my goal when I encounter “couples on the brink” is to, in a professional and non-judgemental way, fight for their marriage. Preparation for each session includes a private prayer asking for Our Lady’s intervention during the session and the will of God to be done. My sessions with the couple tends to focus on demystifying assumptions and unconscious expectations of oneself, the other and the relationship; framing couple dialogues towards helping each understand past relationship exchanges and experiences differently, and facilitating an intrapersonal and interpersonal understanding of the blocks in the relationship to a point where the conversation changes from plans for separation to plans for their future together.
I was thankful to be a part of the recent Catholic Counsellors Roundtable as it completed the puzzle for an area in relationship counselling that I been attempting to navigate – that is, how to “fight for a marriage” where one member of the couple has already made the decision to leave. I greatly appreciated Dr Bill Doherty’s method of approach which included specific types of questions to ask the couple initially and, pending the answers to these questions, inviting the couple for individual sessions with a different agenda for each couple. And that “counselling” did not start until a commitment to work on the relationship for a contracted amount of time was established via the individual sessions.
Thank you for this opportunity to learn about another resource that could help keep marriages together.