Can you guess how long the average couple waits from the start of having problems in their relationship to deciding to seek counseling? According to decades of research by noted marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman, the answer is six years. Six years! Take a moment to let that sink in.
Think how deeply problems have become entrenched in couples’ relationships when they wait this long to seek help. It may not be impossible to turn things around after problems have been around for that long, but it certainly can feel impossible at that point!
Our mission at HRI is to promote happy, healthy, and safe relationships of all kinds and to prevent the negative consequences of relationship distress. One of the major barriers that can get in the way of happy, healthy, and safe relationships is the stigma that surrounds problems in relationships and families. This stigma can make people feel like there is something wrong with them if they face problems in their relationships, as well as that they should be embarrassed if they need to seek help.
At HRI, we’re passionate about ending this stigma and breaking down the barriers to seeking help for relationship and family problem. Of course, there are other barriers to seeking help beyond the stigma, such as financial barriers, transportation, language and cultural concerns, child care needs, and a lack of needed resources in the community.
We are also doing what we can to work with our community partners to continue to address those other barriers as well, but in the meantime, we are also working hard to end this stigma. The stigma surrounding reaching out for help for relationship problems keeps many people suffering in situations that could be improved with the proper support and resources. And, it can contribute to problems becoming much worse than they need to be because they aren’t addressed as early as possible.
While happy, healthy, and safe relationships are our end goal, we know that building and sustaining this kind of relationship takes a lot of work. It’s normal and expected that relationship problems will arise. That’s why our subtitle for our Courage to Ask campaign is, “Relationships are hard. Getting help doesn’t have to be.”
In the coming days, we’ll be sharing some additional tips and points about seeking help for relationship and family problems. In addition, our #FindHelpFridays series is an ongoing resource to promote the accessibility of local resources that support relationships and families locally. In this series, we feature local organizations to help community members get to know more about them and to hear from some of their team members.
It takes courage to ask for help for relationship and family problems in a culture in which there’s pressure to look like we’ve all got everything together. We hope that this series, “The Courage to Ask,” will help each of you think through how you can help to break down this stigma and make it more likely that you and the people you care about will reach out for help when relationship and family challenges arise.