Pre-marriage counselling is emerging as a growing trend among urban Indian couples

Oct 01, 2013, 08:14 IST | Ruchika Kher

To take the plunge in wedlock, and realise later that marital bliss isn't all about the roses and wine, is a thing of the past. Today's pragmatic couples believe in tackling issues before taking the big step of marriage. Shane Warne and Liz Hurley might want to take a cue...

If the tabloids are to be believed, glam couple actress-model Liz Hurley and cricketer fiance Shane Warne might be in some sort of relationship crisis. While some quote that Warne’s closeness with ex-wife Simone Callahan is the reason for the rift, others claim that the couple’s disagreement over where to set up home (Hurley wants to live in England and Warne prefers his native Australia) is the main issue.

Hurley and Warne are amongst several couples who face jitters and issues before saying the all-important, “I do”. While most go ahead with the alliance without looking at ironing out the creases, others deem it better to go their separate ways. However, there is a middle path that some couples are opting for -- pre-marriage counselling. These sessions are increasingly helping couples come to a consensus, resolving issues marring their relationships.

Why do I need counselling?
“The best time to prevent a divorce is before marriage. Pre-marital counselling ensures that couples have a peaceful, harmonious, happy, healthy and strong relationship -- giving them a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage in the long run,” says city-based psychologist, relationship and
marriage counsellor, Dr Sanjoy Mukerji. He believes that pre-marital counselling also helps identify and correct weaknesses that could become bigger problems after marriage. For many years, Dr Mukerji has been increasingly meeting couples, who are either unable to resolve certain issues or who have concerns before tying the knot. He infers that the main concern that most couples have come forward with is whether getting married is the right decision for them. Other concerns include fears that their relationship may change after marriage and questions about possible lifestyle restrictions. “This is a big one with men,” he adds. On the other hand, the doctor shares that women may fear their husbands will suddenly stop treating them well, make demands on them regarding housework or putt restrictions on them. “Couples may both secretly wonder how much their lives will change and feel anxiety about these impending changes,” reveals Mukerji.

Shane Warne and Liz Hurley, who got engaged in 2011, have been facing issues in their relationship once again. Pic/ AFP

Take that step
For Dr Susan Walker, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, marrying at a later age than what was the norm for their parents, means that couples are often well-established in careers and lifestyle, and they recognise that giving up singledom will have its challenges. She adds that for others, it may be the fact that relationships are now discussed more openly and they recognise the usefulness of an open discussion about what married life really means.“However, the most likely reason for couples to come forward is that they have been experiencing some difficulty in discussing a particular subject which may be leading to some conflict in their relationship. This is the point where a wise therapist can ensure that other areas that may not have been addressed, can be tackled,” says Walker, adding that areas of finances and budgeting, children, division of labour in the home, and dealing with conflict are some other major concerns before marriage.

Dr Sonjoy Mukerji
Dr Sonjoy Mukerji

Not quite the perfect ending
However, the picture isn’t rosy every time as all might not necessarily go well in every session. Experts inform that there are occasions when couples realise their incompatibility during a session, which changes the trajectory of the discussion. Dr Mukerji clarifies that whenever such a situation arises, counsellors try to make them understand that this feeling can be changed. “We try to make them understand that this feeling is due to some painful past experiences they have gone through, certain beliefs they are holding on to and their thinking patterns. There is a process by which the past experiences can be released, and the beliefs and the thinking patterns can be changed. Moreover, positive and loving feelings can be developed for each other; these will ultimately make them compatible,” he avers, further stating that when encountered with such a situation, he leaves the final choice with the couple to decide whether they want to be together, or not.

For the better
For advertising professional, Rajshree Dabade, pre-marriage counselling was a blessing in disguise. While she didn’t have any major issues with her fiancé, marriage preparations and the stress related to it took a toll over their relationship, leading to constant arguments. “Then someone told me about pre-marriage counselling. Initially, I was sceptical but then we took the plunge. It really helped us understand those little things about each other, which we were ignoring all this while,” she says. While the trend gains momentum, experts feel that if an increased number of people opt for this, the incidences of divorce might reduce. 

How counselling helped solve the issue Of religion
Nitesh (28) and Andre (27) were in a relationship for three years. The first six months were bliss, but problems began when they finally decided to get married, and families got involved. Nitesh was broad-minded and didn’t mind if Andre followed her religion but his parents were keen that she followed their traditions during festivals, to which Andre agreed. But Andre’s mother was adamant that Nitesh must get converted to Christianity if he was to marry her daughter; this was strongly objected by Nitesh’s parents. This was the juncture at which the couple opted for pre-marriage counselling.

Dr Mukerji had five sessions with the couple and one session with their families. He suggested to the families that the couple is mature enough to get married and they should let them decide which religion to follow. The doctor suggested to the couple that they should follow their own religion and occasionally each other’s religion for the sake of their families’ happiness. The couple is happily married now.

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