They have a solid and loving 35-year marriage, he insists, but he likens his relationship to the modern motor car. “It might last a lifetime,” the Minister for Social Services explains, “but usually we get it serviced every two or three years.”
Andrews becomes animated by the topic and whips out a yellow sticky notepad, drawing a large circle in the middle. “That’s the relationship,” he explains. He then draws half a dozen smaller circles surrounding the large circle.
“These are all the issues surrounding a relationship — they may be work, leisure time, finances … every now and again one of these issues attaches itself to the relationship,” he says, scribbling vigorously. “The issue gets bigger and bigger and it eats away at the relationship. The issues end up taking over the relationship.”
And when that happens, it’s time for a service.
The relationships of Australia are about to get a free tune-up, courtesy of Kevin Andrews. In July this year he will introduce a program whereby couples of all persuasions — those about to be married, the already married, the unmarried, same-sex couples, those hoping to soup up a sagging sex life — will be able to apply online for a $200 counselling voucher. The $20 million pilot will allow 100,000 couples to take that voucher to an approved provider, a marital mechanic, for a service.
Andrews hopes that through his scheme he can make a dent in the separation rate and, by extension, improve the lives of children. He claims, rather boldly, that the direct cost to the taxpayer is at least $100,000 for each divorce.
It’s a pet issue of his: his wife Margaret is trained as a counsellor, and as a socially conservative Christian he is an avid promoter of the tradition of marriage as “the bedrock of successful societies”. He even penned a book, Maybe ‘I Do’ — Modern Marriage and the Pursuit of Happiness, a 480-page ode to marriage.
With Kev’s words ringing in my ears, and his explanatory notes in my pocket, my partner Lisa and I take the plunge. There are many counselling services out there, so which one to choose?
The Australian, 16 May 2014
Original article here