Premarital counseling- Arranged Marriage

When anyone talks about the comparatively higher success rate of arranged marriages in India when compared to love marriages, we fling at them the statistics in various strata and convince them that it is the “safer” option. A recent survey revealed that almost 76% Indians prefer arranged marriages, most of them from the Northern states of India. People still believe that their parents are the best decision makers and will make the right choice of a partner after pooling for the right spouse for them in the marriage market. It was reported from a survey in 2013 that only one in a hundred arranged marriages end up with divorce in India whereas it was around 50% in the United States! So, what if the numbers are so convincing? Is it really a reflection of the happiness of the couple?

Many couples may be forcibly bearing with each other and not even be on speaking terms, just for the sake of their parents’ happiness, children or even societal pressure. So, if we actually implement that only “death will do us apart” in a traditional arranged marriage in India, why not really achieve that level of love and satisfaction from your spouse?

But, is it easy to achieve all this especially if your strings are manipulated by those who have “arranged” your life and marriage?
Here is where premarital counseling steps in since the reality is that compatibility is the leading horse of a marriage -be it arranged or love. What matters basically in the longevity of the marriage is the groundwork that couples do to make their relationships last, post receiving professional counseling in most cases.
•    The choice of partner is done according to the most vulnerable criteria and the meatiest fish is caught by the parents based on social status, financial level, religion, cast, education, career, and lifestyle. So, isn’t it a way of being outright open about what is tolerable and what is unacceptable to the families’ who are going to accept you with open arms?
•    There is no element of surprise related to the above-mentioned criteria as if anyone lies, they are in for some trouble with their in-laws for sure.
•    There is family baggage in addition to emotional baggage as there is no choice or control over interference in a variety of aspects of your marital life.
•    Some quirky behavior unfolds after the honeymoon and it is truly disturbing to a newlywed bride if she encounters it all too soon.
•    A guarded tone and slow approach is the norm when dealing with the in-laws for both the partners and the bigger picture are taken into consideration when taking life-turning decisions.
•    The couple usually put off confrontations and agree to what their spouse feels or believes without arguing because they are unsure of each other’s traits and preferences. They feel it is easier to withdraw and not face each other and be judged by the rest.
•    Personal preferences and opinions are usually quashed to get out of troublesome situations to blend with the rest of the family, leaving it to destiny sometimes!
•    The feeling of being lost in the crowd and losing one’s identity becomes magnanimous unless a rigid resolve to be strong-headed is prevalent in the couple. They may be termed “self-centered” and arrogant and be at the receiving end of criticism and cynicism.

Signs you need a premarital counseling.

i.    Emotional and physically compatibility which had been overlooked at the time of marriage have become nagging problems now. You are unable to achieve a common ground to openly express each other’s requirements and desires due to some unknown reason.
ii.    Love will grow with time was the advice given when the wedding date had been decided. But, we really do not know where to start and ignite the love in our marriage and in what form, acceptable to us.
iii.    Interference and obligations on our personal decisions and privacy never seem to subside. We do not want to disrespect our family members, but still, need to know where and how to define boundaries.
iv.    Adjustment seems to be the only thing we have to do after marriage. We need to put in a lot of effort to accommodate each other for understanding the positive points in our relationship.
v.    Security and stability can be judged only on some factors related to finance, religion and status. But, how do we achieve stability and comfort in each other’s company if there is a communication gap between us?
vi.    Remote control in-laws seem to not let go of my partner and we have a hard time trying to convince them of any decisions we make. We are expected to always take their approval in the end, else be termed disrespectful!
vii.    Expecting and trying to make everyone around us happy is stressing our relationship and killing our time for each other. We are unable to think on a common plane nowadays and it often results in hurt, emotional drain, dissatisfaction with our decision to be married sometimes.

What questions to ask in premarital counseling?

i.    How do we actually convince them that we need marital counseling in the first place? They may jump up in shock and think we are contemplating divorce!
ii.    How do we clear the communication gap and let go of any guilty feelings of our obligations to our parents?
iii.    We really need to get a hold of our careers and balance our responsibilities at home. How do we achieve this in a conservative and traditional background?
iv.    Providing for our parents is an obligation. But, it is also a major cause of conflict at times regarding the amount, resources and time spent on them. How do we resolve such a deadlock and discuss openly without hurting each other?
v.    Abiding by the style of dressing, eating and performing rituals is a matter of concern when it comes to unsaid expectations. How should a new bride blend her lifestyle with that of her in-laws in a convincing manner?
vi.    Starting a family is not on our minds currently. How do we convince our families’ who are hell-bent on becoming grandparents within the first year of our marriage!
vii.    As we discovering each other’s personality traits and quirks, we are in for some surprises most of the time. How do we deal with these uncanny revelations?
viii.    How can we convince our immediate family members to attend a counseling session in the near future when they think so negatively about this whole idea?
ix.    How to react when expectations are not met! Yes, it is a much-ignored aspect and will surely promote a healthy marriage for the two of you.

What advice to expect from premarital counseling?

i.    Discomfort, uncertainties or a dilemma- your counselor will judge your socio-economic scenario and offer you the appropriate advice.
ii.    You will be assessed separately and then as a couple to gauge the possible behaviors and traits which are most likely to trigger or clash in the future.
iii.     You will be given the right direction and techniques to deal with crises which appear at significant junctures in your lives. Making yourself capable enough to question and think about yourself more deeply.
iv.    Pressing questions at the back of your mind will be dutifully addressed – concerns and confusions about your choice of partner, pressure from parents, taking responsibility about ones choice of the partner, that gnawing feeling that marriage is useless but also craving marriage,  issues around intimacy
v.    Tips to strengthen your bond and become more receptive in the communication aspect is an area likely to be addressed.
vi.    Topics kept under cover like family, money, sex, children, work and such can be brought into the light and all uncertainties and doubts resolved between the couple beforehand.
vii.    Unbiased and non-judgemental advice with complete privacy and anonymity -it is premarital counseling for you!
viii.    Since this will be a sacred union between the families’ too, inquiry and advice on this topic will be coming your way. For example,
1.    What your family was like growing up and what your family dynamics are currently.
2.    Your relationships with your parents, siblings, and extended family to get a better idea of how these relationships have shaped you as a whole.
3.    The roles of your parents played in your household and their style of parenting.
4.    Taboo topics and challenges you or your family faced in the past like trauma, addiction, abuse or divorce.

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