Marriages – Made in Heaven?
The big Indian wedding is mostly about the parties, jewelry, wedding halls, decorations, honeymoon destinations, bridal trousseaus and families getting together. The amount of time, resources and energy that is spent in planning the big day often depends on how wealthy the families are.
The “big day”, however, is just the beginning of what many people neglect to prepare for. Getting married is the easy part. Staying married is difficult, and staying happily married is hard work and a distant reality for many.
What follows the big day for many women and men is a rude shock! To suddenly realize that I cannot make decisions on my own now; “we” have to decide together. Spending an hour longer at work needs a discussion, going out on an office outing needs a discussion, visiting parents (or in laws) has to have a discussion, where we should go for dinner is only after a discussion, how do we spend our income is a discussion. It is no more “I”, it is “we”.
Enriching one’s marriage is not difficult if one cares to invest some time, resources and energy. Being happily married does not have to be a distant reality. It can be a conscious decision that one takes in life. The more one talks constructively, the more one knows and understands the other person, and the more one empathizes with one’s partner, the less it seems like a tug of war. Counselling is a sure way of enriching one’s marriage.
Counselling may be undergone by one or both members of a couple, separately or together.
On the counsellor’s part, counselling involves facilitating processes of decision making, hearing each other, respecting one another and empathizing with one another. Counselling should not be confused with advice-giving. Counselling is helping a person speak his/her own thoughts and desires. Good counselling is often proactive: that is, it often leads to a constructive plan for action, to improve the situation.
Here are some frequently asked questions about marriage counselling:
Can family members be counsellors?
Family members are bound to take sides. Either they support their own daughter or son, or in some cases support the son- or daughter-in-law more than their own child. Other people taking sides brings a lot of resentment between partners, and this will not help the couple. The same goes with friends. Anyone who has an emotional attachment to either partner cannot be fair.
A counsellor is a neutral person who does not take sides. The counsellor is someone who will not be affected by any decision the members of the couple may make.
Is counselling only meant for those who have a mental problem?
Not at all. Counselling is for anyone who may want help thinking something through. In many cases, counselling can be seen as preventing serious problems, ensuring that there is no trouble later on. In other words, counselling is useful not only when someone has a problem, but also when one wishes to avoid a problem. Many times I hear people say “my problem is not all that big”. But the very fact that one is thinking and worrying about one’s marriage, shows that problems in the relationship may be bigger than one might like to admit they are.
What is the difference between counselling and giving advice?
Counselling is all about listening, and helping clients to become conscious of, and to verbalise their own thoughts and desires. Counselling is based on the concept of an equal relationship between counsellor and client, the principal that every client has the ability to make decisions which are the best for his/her own life. The counsellor does not have the answers.
Giving advice smacks of authority, and may imply that the client does not know what is best for him/her, and has to be told everything,
Is counselling only for young couples?
Counselling does not have an age limit. Counselling benefits both the young, and the not so young alike. Even if you have been married for 20 years, the length is not as important as the quality of the marriage. As I said before, the question here is “are you happily married?” If you think something might be amiss, it is never too late to identify and seek to fix the problem.
When and in what stages of marriage can counselling be useful?
The different stages of marriage in which counselling can be helpful are:
Getting married is a transition from one stage to another; from being single to being married. Counselling in this stage can help both members of the couple avoid any conflicts once the marriage takes place. A counsellor can facilitate discussion of issues such as those relating to finance, children, parenting, employment, career path, continuing education, etc.
- Enriching your marriage: To understand the personality of your spouse, and adjusting to each other. To learn to understand, respect -- and in some cases, tolerate -- each other’s values and beliefs.
- Resolving anger: For the couple’s sake, and also for their children’s sakes. It is very destructive to children for them to live in an environment in which their parents are constantly bickering with each other, or not talking with each other.
- Building on the positives: Identifying what works in the relationship, what makes each member happy, and planning how to maximize such behaviors.
- Nurturing one’s relationship in the context of a joint family: Living with in laws requires a lot of understanding of one’s partner, and his/her parents.
- Living through adultery: Rebuilding a marriage relationship after one partner has had an affair.
- Dealing with an abusive relationship: If one feels one is being physically, verbally, emotionally abused, one may benefit from talking with a supportive person who will listen, and help one draw some conclusions regarding how one can improve the situation. Abuse may be related to addiction, domestic violence, or some other problem. Counselling can help one to decide what to do to try to improve matters; or when and how to leave the relationship in order to protect oneself.
- Counselling to being better parents: Child-raising issues and their impact on the marriage relationship.
- Taking a decision to divorce or try again: This is a very important decision and both partners need to think this through. Counselling helps in making this decision either way.
- Couples who are going through a divorce: A couple which is separating may produce two individuals with a lot of bitterness. No matter who has filed for divorce first, both parties often go through a depression. A feeling of coping with single life after being married requires a lot of adjustment. If handled well, this may lead to people rediscovering themselves, and their interests.
- Counselling children whose parents are getting divorced: Members of a divorcing couple are sometimes so wrapped up in their own problems, that they may not be fully aware of what their children may be going through. Children sometimes blame themselves, feel guilty, and feel responsible for their parents’ separation. Children can be taught to cope with living in two homes, maybe having to change home, town, school etc. Much evidence shows that children are often traumatized by the separation of their parents.
Is one ready to marry again, with all fairness to one’s new partner? Counselling can help one make sure that one is not carrying one’s bitterness about the past, and other baggage into the new relationship.