Look before you leap

Group shot

Posted on: 5th September, 2016

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

A practical and fun relationship show ‘Then Comes Marriage’ airing on RTÉ2 this autumn offers a unique opportunity for couples thinking of taking the plunge to gain valuable insight into their relationship. Under the guidance of leading relationship experts, psychoanalytic psychotherapist Dr. Ray O’Neill and psychologist Allison Keating, three couples have the chance to prepare for their future life together on the ultimate relationship skills crash course, which tackles everything from personal finances to family planning. Ray speaks to Mary O’Brien.

“Getting married is easy, being married is really really challenging,” says O’Neill, who divides his time between his practice in Dublin and Eyeries in rural West Cork, where his family roots go back 350 years.

As Ireland’s only male agony aunt, Ray writes about love, relationships, and desire in the 21st century. He works mainly, but not exclusively, within the LGBT community, where he has acted as a director of Gay Switchboard Dublin, and is an LGBT and mental health advocate.

Ray o'Neill

Dr. Ray O’Neill

“The point of this show is to make couples at home think about the commitment involved in marriage. It’s not a gameshow or a voyeuristic reality TV show – it’s about relationships, with real couples and real therapists.

“A lot of people marry because they don’t want to be single, rather than marrying because they’ve actually met someone that they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

“‘An Irish Marriage’ is a phrase used in the US to describe a husband and wife who have been together for a number of years but have no relationship. They don’t sleep together and they don’t talk to each other. Because of the Catholic legacy there’s this overriding idea that we have to stay together just for the children. And yet I’m now working with the children of such marriages who have no idea how to form a relationship because they’re terrified of ending up in something like their mother and father. People need to realise that it’s ok for relationships to end. It’s not always best for people to stay together, particularly when there is addiction or abuse involved.”

O’Neill believes there are three core issues that cause problems in relationships – sex, money and housework. “We’re still so private and anxious around sexuality and money. And housework is a problem because we still work under really ridiculous antiquated gender presumptions.

“It’s never happened that a couple has come to see me because they’re arguing about housework. What it comes down to is somebody feeling or being taken for granted, someone in the relationship feeling stressed and poor communication, which are always indicative of something else.”

One of the things O’Neill emphasises to the couples he counsels is that a relationship is not about equality, it’s about equity. “Equity tells us if you’re better at cooking and I’m better at ironing, we should divide the work that way. The key is never to presume things but engage in conversations about it.”

According to O’Neill, a challenge faced by every couple in a long-term relationship, whether same-sex or straight, is something known as ‘Lesbian bed death’. This is a term that was coined to describe familiarity killing desire. “A very real issue for all couples is the misconception that ‘same is boring and different is exciting’. But the level of sexuality that can only happen with someone you’re familiar with can be incredibly powerful. Couples need to be honest with each other and communicate their desires.”

Describing himself as a ridiculous optimist, but very much a realist, O’Neill holds mixed views on marriage, believing the main problem is that it’s held in too high esteem. “It’s seen as the pinnacle of a relationship; once you’re married, you’ve gone to the Olympic Games, when actually you’ve maybe only just started training for them.

“There really isn’t enough exploration and conversation around the challenges of being married. It’s far too easy to get into and way too costly on an emotional, financial and legal basis to get out of.

“Falling in love is easy. I know it’s heartbreaking, I know it’s troublesome but keeping love and respect alive, and communication going between the two of you – that’s where the real challenge is. A marriage demands and requires more of two human beings than just love or sexual attraction.

“There are people you love and there are people you marry and these aren’t necessarily the same.

“I’m not suggesting this is the way it should be today, but in the old days, which isn’t so long ago in Ireland, and also for example in Jewish tradition, you have the official matchmaker who looks for compatibility in terms of socio economics, political or even ethical outlook. Nowadays, lust and love are confused way too often.”

O’Neill’s advice for couples is to have “a real relationship rather than a successful relationship”. “I’m always wary as to how success is measured. Ask yourself, do you actually like this person, do you love this person, do you feel loved, respected, do you have a voice and is it listened to? The best relationships are relationships where two individuals form a couple and yet stay individuals. If you lose your individual identity to the couple, you end up paying the price somewhere because you’ve sacrificed and surrendered too much of yourself. We will all have to face being on our own again at some stage, whether that’s through separation, illness or death.”

On the other hand, If you’re too much of an individual within a couple then the relationship will suffer too. “It’s important to get that balance,” says O’Neill. “Compromise, but also be aware of and respect the things you can’t compromise on. Oftentimes that only emerges when people have already made a commitment.

“You know that Meatloaf song ‘I would do anything for love but I won’t do that’…I always ask couples ‘What is the one thing you wouldn’t do?’. That’s where honesty starts emerging. For example, if your partner had bowel cancer would you willingly change their colostomy bag every day? That’s never in the fairytale.”

Arguing is an important part of a relationship but it’s how you argue that matters according to O’Neill. “Couples have to learn how to argue well, which means you speak, and you listen. Communication is at the heart of a successful relationship.”

“One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about this new RTE show is its honesty and authenticity and getting involved with the couples and seeing them develop their communication with each other. It’s not an easy thing to go on national telly but it’s a unique opportunity for them to learn something about themselves, and to share what they learn with viewers at home. In many ways our couples are pioneers taking the stigma out of relationship therapy, they are the ones that offer opportunities for us all to learn.”

Ray can be reached through his website www.machna.ie or on 086 8280033.

Latest News Articles:

Christmas on the beat
Clonakilty town aims to get snowed under with the return of the Clonakilty Christmas Express
On call for Christmas
Have your say in shaping the future of Clonakilty
Dursey Island project passes first phase in Failte Ireland’s Grant Scheme
Minister Ring visits superb rural initiatives in West Cork
West Cork farms celebrated at Milk Awards
Issue of childcare a major concern for 72 per cent of female entrepreneurs
Rain, slurry deadlines and housing
Celtic Ross Hotel awarded AA Rosette for Culinary Excellence

Join us on Facebook

This is the real spirit of Christmas at Caseys of Clonakilty. ... See MoreSee Less

Are you alone or do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? If so, then we here at Casey’s would like to make your day the little bit easier. We are offering a full Christmas dinner on us! Christmas dinners can be collected Christmas Eve from 12:30pm - 8:30pm. Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas from everyone at Casey’s

15th December, 2017  ·  

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s has just announced its Christmas schedule and it features several programmes of interest to listeners in West Cork.

On New Year’s Day at 12.08 pm we’ll hear highlights from the Éigse Dhiarmuidín Festival that took place in West Cork in early December, remembering musician and broadcaster Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. An Nollaig ar Oileán Chléire is an archive show presented by Mícheál Ó Sé on Wednesday 27 December at 5.30 pm about Christmas on Cape Clear and on Friday 29 December and 5 January at 7 pm, Peadar Ó Riada will bring us very special editions of his Cuireadh chun Ceoil programme from Múscraí. Keep an ear out!
... See MoreSee Less

15th December, 2017  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork shared Garda Síochána - Cork, Kerry & Limerick - Southern Region's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

REMINDER: An Garda Siochana are hosting a Retail Crime Prevention Meeting, to be held at 7pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017. This meeting will be held in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon. This meeting is one of a series being held across the West Cork Garda Division, in association with Operation Thor, the Garda National Anti-Crime Strategy. The purpose of the meeting is to increase the cooperation between Gardai and the retail sector, ensuring that the current low levels of crime in the locality extends past the busy approaching Christmas season. The meeting will be addressed by the local Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Ian O’ Callaghan, who will discuss burglary prevention, shoplifting, fraud, and cybercrime. There will be a particular focus on cash handling and cash exposure of businesses in the run up to the Christmas shopping period. All aspects of commercial crime will be discussed, and we would strongly urge all businesses to make a special effort to attend on the evening.

28th November, 2017  ·  

TRADING THROUGH BREXIT - BREXIT BRIEFING SERIES LAUNCHED
Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Simon Coveney T.D. is hosting a number of Brexit Breakfast Briefings in Cork in the coming weeks. The first in the series takes place on Monday, 4 December at the Carrigaline Court Hotel at 7:30am until 9am. Business owners, retailers and those involved in tourism in the region are invited to attend the free briefing, which will see Minister Coveney providing an update on Brexit negotiations, his insights and also practical ways to begin preparing for Brexit.

The Brexit Breakfast information events are free of charge and all are welcome to attend, however registration is required by emailing simon.coveney@oir.ie or call 021 4374200
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Keep an eye out for Croíúil Trad group
from Rosscarbery and the Munster Champions U-12 Ceili Band from Bandon, both performing on next weekend's The Late Late Toy Show, airing on Friday, December 1 on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.
... See MoreSee Less

27th November, 2017  ·  

Jump to:

Top