Many people mistake counselling as something only people with “problems” need to do – but counselling is actually much more effective if people seek it out before they start having problems. Sometimes, by the time counselling is sought, the problem has become too big to be fixed.
One type of counselling that few people consider taking, but it could help reduce many big problems in the future, is premarital counselling. The Catholic Church has been providing premarital counselling to Catholic couples who want to marry for many years, and this counselling can help these couples better deal with problems in their relationship whenever they arise. And while the circumstances of many South Asian couples are different than those of Catholic couples, the idea of premarital counselling in South Asian communities is an idea that is definitely worth exploring.
While marriage is an important life transition, too many people enter into it without fully understanding the commitment and life adjustments it requires. Prior to marriage, most of us only had to think about ourselves, and we were often free to make decisions without considering the needs of others. After all before marriage it was all about “me” or “I,” but after marriage it’s about “us” or “we.” Prior to the marriage (and even shortly after the marriage, for the first few weeks and months), we are in a bit of a “dream state,” when both the man and woman are so happy to be together that they don’t pay attention to the differences between them. But over time, especially if those differences are significant (which is very normal, given we all have different viewpoints and opinions about the things that matter in our lives), the arguments may begin. The true strength of a marriage is measured by how these types of conflicts are handled. Those who have been through premarital counselling are well positioned to handle these conflicts.
Most if not all South Asian couples have conflicts early in their marriages over issues such as budgeting, problems with members of each other’s families and even over what to do on the weekend – and while many couples are able to overcome these difficulties, many others don’t. Premarital counselling can help couples about to marry understand what they can expect in their marriage, and learn skills to deal with these issues should they arise.
The nature of this counselling would depend on the couple and their circumstances. If the prospective bride and groom come from traditional families, where the couple did not socialize prior to marriage, then such counselling can be done individually. And if the couple has been able to socialize prior to marriage, then the couple can attend together. And given South Asian couples are also heavily connected to other family members, sessions for extended family would also be useful.
Getting people to buy into the idea of premarital counselling isn’t going to be easy; it will take community members and, given most marriages take place there, religious institutions to buy into the idea. Given the fact that such counselling can strengthen families, hopefully we can all get past whatever apprehensions we have and make it a reality. Premarital counselling in South Asian communities – it’s about time.