You may be in love, but pre-marital counselling may still go a long way in helping you dscover whether you're ready to take the plunge.
Wedding bells are ringing, celebration is in the air. A new beginning beckons.
You just can't seem to get enough of each other and can hardly wait for D-Day.
Still, let's get real.
Many 'very much in love' couples end up near-strangers under the same roof, leading parallel lives, while others remain 'cordial', the zing having left their relationship long since. Quarrelling and bickering become the mantra for some and the percentage of marriags that end up in divorce or separation continues to grow at an alarming pace.
A small minority continue to be in love, a deeper and steadier kind of love, or 'fall in love' again and seem to have, somewhere along the road, learnt to reignite the passion.
So what is it that magic ingredient that binds these couples to eternal love?
Couples are blinded by the euphoria of the state of 'being in love'. Each partner tries to put his or her best foot forward. Such a state can hardly be expected to last a lifetime. The rigours of married life, including sharing work, sexual interaction, expectations, financial pressures and sharing the same roof can take their toll and unmask 'put on' acts and behaviours, in fact, sometimes, bringing out the worst in both.
So how does premarital counselling help couples waiting to tie the knot?
Premarital counselling sessions bring couples face-to-face with ground realities and the responsibilities of marriage. They are asked about their likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests, religious and political inclinations, attitudes towards finances and relatives, and priorities.
Areas of potential incompatibility and discord are then identified and the couple is encouraged to come to an amicable balance regarding those matters. For example, if the man is a spendthrift and the woman loves to splurge, they may agree that she can use 'X' amount of money for personal use, no questions asked, while he decides the household budget. If he wants sex everyday and she wants it twice a week, maybe they can settle for four times, or that it is his responsibility to get her in the mood!
Disparities in pre-marriage social and financial status can translate into different standards of living. Thus, what may be essential and basic for one partner may seem like a wasteful luxury to the other.
Counsellors get both partners to voice their expectations and help them work around their differences. Partners are encouraged to be honest, and many couples may discover some unpalatable truths about each other during the course of the session. Accepting each other with love, despite differences, is one of the key ingredients that goes into the making of a successful marriage.
Sharing and caring is another area which needs looking into.
Married couples need to share a home, the bedroom, the same bed, even hand towels and toilet seats. Callousness on the part of one can become a cause for irritation to the other and certain ground rules may need to be laid down to avoid skirmishes.
Caring cannot be taught, but caring behaviours can be inculcated with practice. Commitment towards marriage can spur partners into modifying damaging behaviours at an early stage. Before marriage, the levels of commitment are usually the highest and a pre-marital counselling session may be the perfect time to inspire and instill corrective and healthy behaviours.
Attitude towards in-laws and extended family may differ and partners may find themselves at loggerheads over how much importance to give to whom and whose relatives take priority. One partner may find some relative of the other particularly disagreeable, adding to the trouble.
Attitude towards each other is probably the other single most important factor which determines the success or breakdown of a marriage. Mutual respect, encouragement, appreciation, concern and 'being there for each other' are crucial traits which promote bonding and make the relationship emotionally fulfilling.
Parenting responsibility and attitudes towards childrearing are other areas which are addressed.
Pre-marital counselling thus gives couples a 'reality check' before taking the plunge.
A complete physical checkup of both partners, with blood tests to detect various sexually transmitted infections and other diseases (after discussing them with the couple) are also part of the counselling process. Partners need to know about any medical or sexual condition of the other that can affect their lives or fertility before marriage. The couple is offered medical advice on relevant issues whenever applicable. Couple are taken through sex education with an emphasis on responsible sexual practices, including birth control.
Forewarned is forearmed
Statistics have shown that couples who undergo pre-marital counselling, are more likely to stay together, to have happier marriages and happier children. Yet, it is not just the process of counselling or the counsellor that's is important and not all couples who undertake pre-marital counselling have it easy. Some couples may, in the process, discover irreconcilable differences and decide to call off the marriage. The level of commitment of the partners to make those not-so-easy changes is the single most important determinant in the success of the marriage.
Wishing you a happy, fulfilling and ever-lasting marriage!
Dr Suman Bijlani is the director at GyneGuide, a organisation that addresses health and relationship-related issues.
Photograph: Sean Mack/Wikimedia Commons