Our recent experience in handling marital disputes has exposed the harsh reality that married couples hardly know anything about each other. Couples enter into marriage from different backgrounds, social attitudes, etc. There are very often communication problems and these unaddressed reasons are the cause of anxiety, stress, desperation quite often leading to suicidal tendencies. One would tend to believe that these problems crop up only with arranged marriages, no they are very often found in love marriages and even in those marriages where the couple has been in a relationship for several years.
Couples intending to enter into matrimony need premarital counselling. The important issues in marriage being their properties prior to their marriage, careers, money, sex, intimacy, children, the parental families and the network of kinship ties that form a part of the marriage of the couple. Couples never speak about these crucial issues before entering into marriage leading to misunderstanding, break down of communication resulting in cracks in their relationship. I have seen people quarrel over what something as trivial as the length of hair the wife should keep. These issues which are the cause of conflict in the marriage do not get addressed or discussed before the knot is tied. That is why I feel that premarital counselling is a must.
Marriage today is portrayed in a very romantic way, it is overemphasized. Some enter into it expecting the fulfillment of romance instantly and unfortunately get disillusioned. They expect that marriage is a daily dose of moonlight and roses. Romance is invigorating but it is not a way of life. I see communication and adjustment as important factors in nurturing a relationship.
The art of defining the issues and problems while complaining about lack of communication between husband and wife whether it is the way they communicate or lack of it, can help in developing a healthy relationship. While counselling couples I find that the husband complains that his wife nags while the wife says he does not talk to her. Could this be because they communicate badly?
Premarital counselling is the need of the hour which will play a vital role in avoiding marital conflicts. As a counselor I would think that there should be truth and openness in the relationship especially with regard to childbearing and other health related issues.
A couple has to know about the medical condition of the partner they intend to spend their life with. A medical checkup before marriage is a must. Tests for reproductive abilities, HIV, Hepatities B, sexually transmitted diseases, or any other disease which can be transmitted to the partner have to be done and the reports discussed in the presence of a pre-marital counselor.
Counselling sessions help the couple to discuss sex and to clear misconceptions with regard to sex and sexuality in marriage, contraception, religious beliefs, etc.
There are a few ways which can help prevent conflicts. A marriage needs to be nurtured. The couple could plan time for each other. The time required would be quality time not just for sharing information but also to be able to have conversations, to relax and to feel that they are in touch. They also need to be alone with each other occasionally. In a marriage the partners do not become possessions of each other but give each other time and space to be themselves.
Be friends for life while you have supportive friends. Identify problems and learn to deal with them. Dwell more on the positive side of your partner I call a marital health checkup a marital audit, which needs to be done, as it enables you to take care of this precious relationship.
Marriage is a social institution having often a religious and communal sanction, apart from its legal side. It is an interpersonal relationship which can weather all storms provided one works at the art of living together despite differences and sharing life intimately. Conflicts are inevitable but commitment and tender loving care will sustain the bond.