Would you pass a marriage MOT?

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What state is your marriage in? Is it running smoothly or about to blow a gasket?

National Marriage Week, which runs until February 14, is encouraging couples to pause and learn some new skills to improve their marriages. This annual focus on marriage, supported by the Church of England, the Mothers’ Union and a host of charities, will see hundreds of local events encouraging couples to nurture their relationships at churches and community groups.

Marriage MOTs - marital ‘diagnostic checks’ which can highlight both faults and plus points - are one of the methods being promoted. “If you’re fortunate enough to be in a marriage – then you should look after it,” say Marriage Week organisers.

Sheffield relationship counsellors Gill Wier and Bay Whitaker are offering couples free Relationship MOTs During Marriage Week at their service, Sheffield Central Counselling

“In long-term relationships it’s easy to start taking each other for granted and stop listening to each other. Taking stock with a Relationship MOT is of benefit to every relationship,” explains Gill.

In free sessions with a counsellor, couples will complete a questionnaire to help assess the strengths and weaknesses in their relationship and identify small changes they could make to improve.

Says Gill: “It’s a fun way to start thinking about your relationship and an opportunity to ask any questions you may have about couples counselling. Marriage Week is very timely. In January we always see a rise in inquiries; the New Year motivates people to make positive changes in their relationships. And Valentine’s Day is approaching, a day which is all about romantic idealism and that can alienate people who are struggling in relationships.”

Gill and Bay started their business in 2008 after meeting on a counselling course. They saw a gap in the market for a city centre based counselling practice. “We really enjoy helping couples. Our own experiences of being in long term relationships means that we know relationships are hard work but worth it,” says Gill. “But we also know all couples go through difficult times and sometimes they can’t get any further in resolving their issues on their own. They need the support of a trained counsellor.

Gill says relationships are hard work. When you first fall in love, you focus on what you have in common; as time goes on you become aware of your differences and that can cause disappointment and conflict. “There are skills we can learn to improve the way we relate to each other.”

In the last four years, hundreds of Sheffield people have walked through Central Counselling’s doors at Omnia One on Queen Street to find a way of rebuilding their relationships. And a high percentage of relationships have been saved as a result.

Gill, who has been married for 10 years and has a three year old son, says: “We are passionate about helping couples to rediscover their love for each other and have huge respect for couples who come. It takes courage and shows how committed they are to making their relationship work.”

She and Bay, who lives with her partner of 30 years and their six-year-old daughter, urge people to tackle relationship issues in the early stages: “People often think of couples counselling as a last resort and sadly often leave it until the relationship has really broken down before making an appointment,

“I have had several couples ring and cancel their first appointment because in the meantime they have made a decision to separate.”