By Jazlyn MacLeod
Oct. 22, 2014
Family counsellors must take some of the blame for the condition of the institution of marriage today, says UPEI history professor Ian Dowbiggin.
He explores the issue in his just released book The Search for Domestic Bliss: Marriage and Family Counseling in the 20th Century America.
As many as two million American and Canadian couples go into counselling every year hoping to save their marriages, Dowbiggin said.
“There certainly seems to be an enormous demand out there for these kinds of services, services being provided by a wide variety of people who claim to have expertise in this particular field.”
Counsellors aren’t entirely to blame, but they certainly are not helping, Dowbiggin said.
“It is a very controversial topic, a lot of debate. It boils down to the question, is marriage an important social institution anymore?”
Marriage is more of a legal term to, Island marriage counsellor Teresa Kinnear.
Relationships are an important institution, she said.
“How we relate to each other.”
Couples going to counselling is more common than it use to be, Kinnear said.
“There are lots of reasons why divorce is much more prevalent than it was over 30 years ago. Commitment is different than it was 30 years ago.”
Everyone focuses on his or her own individual needs and expectations in a relationship, Kinnear said.
“We’re all carried away by the Disney princess kind of happy-ever-after syndrome, which is not particularly realistic, of course.”
As long as the hormones are kicking in, the honeymoon phase will work, but once that’s gone, couples need other resources, Kinnear said.
“People get confused, I think. Expecting it to carry on.”
Counsellors are learning to deal with the changing views on marriage as a social institution as it, and the views on divorce, are changing, Kinnear said.
“I would hope we’re not making it any worse. In some situations I believe we can help, certainly not all.”
There are many issues to consider today and different forms of marriages, and families, that factor into views on marriage changing, Dowbiggin said.
“We don’t know what the future will hold.”