by Jennifer Chapman
Studies have shown that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. With statistics like that, it’s no wonder that so many people are staying single these days.
But for Barbara Peters, marriages can endure the test of time. As a couple’s counselor in Cumming, Peters is confident that with the right tools, couples can succeed in having a happy and healthy relationship. She helps mentor couples with her advise.
“I feel that we need to honor marriage,” said Peters. “I feel that it should be the most important relationship. I don’t think that just because the divorce rate is high means that we should give up on marriage,” she said.
Peters, a registered nursed and licensed professional counselor, has worked in a psychiatric hospital, managed behavioral health organizations and employee assistance consulting firms. But the New York native’s passion lies in helping couples with their problems.
“I have a calling for what I do because I’m passionate about helping couples,” said Peters, who recently wed in November. “I’ve always wanted to do this since I was a kid.”
Problems, problems, problems
Each marriage – and problem within – is different, said Peters, and changes from couple to couple. Affairs, pornography, gambling problems and breaches of trust are only a few of some of the more common factors that send couples seeking Peters’ advice and counsel.
“There are some cases where they’re not in deep trouble, but they are in trouble and I’m here to help them,” she said. “I ask my clients how their relationship was when they were dating and how it is now. People forget that you get married and you begin – you begin to grow together.”
With the recent media coverage of celebrity sex scandals (think Tiger Woods, former Sen. John Edwards and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford) there are many reasons behind infidelity and many more reasons why spouses choose to stay in the marriage.
“For some people, staying together would never work because the trust isn’t there for them,” said Peters. “You have to look at what caused (the infidelity). If a couple wants to stay together, that’s OK, if it works for them. And if it works for them, I’m going to help them. It’s really amazing when a couple tells you that they’re going to stay together. It makes it all worth it,” said Peters.
Ways to improve
Peters gives her clients “homework” – reading books, watching movies or behavioral and communication exercises they do at home with their partner. The exercises depend on the couple’s needs.
Some couples come in way too late, teetering on the edge of divorce. And, it makes Peters’ job complex as she’s not only counseling one person, but two.
“Sometimes the couples want me to wave a magic wand and make everything all better right away, but I don’t have one,” said Peters. “It takes time and effort on behalf of a couple to make things better.” Secrets to a good marriage When asked if she had any secrets to a good marriage, Peters said that’s how the idea for her recently published book, “The Gift of a Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Lasts” came about. “There are these ingredients that people need in a marriage – F.A.C.T.S.,” she said. F.A.C.T.S. is an acronym for Forgiveness, Acceptance, Compassion, Trust and Spirituality.
“I came up with those from the troubled marriages that I encountered but I feel they need to be in every marriage,” said Peters.
She said F.A.I.T.H., another acronym, adds to the F.A.C.T.S. Friendship, Affection, Intimacy, Time and Happiness.
“These are techniques that can strengthen, build, grow and keep and marriage healthy,” she said.
But one of the most important factors is maintenance, said Peters.
“In the book I have a maintenance agreement that helps couples,” she said. “Some couples come in to see me just for maintenance. You have to keep your marriage a priority.”
What’s love got to do with it?
Peters said F.A.I.T.H. helps to make love in a marriage, as it’s about accepting somebody into one’s life.
Peters said it’s important for couples to remember their marriage vows – and renew them.
“We renew driver’s licenses, why shouldn’t we renew our wedding vows?” she said. “The best advice I can give to married couples is to have them each know who they really are – not hold anything back and be willing to stand by who you are.”