Friday, September 10, 2010

Marital Counseling: Myths and Facts

Even in today’s modernized India, visiting a psychologist or a counselor is looked down upon by many people. For most people, a psychologist is only for the “crazy” people. This is far from reality. Psychologists can and do help people who are having difficulty coping with a current life situation. Most “normal” people go through certain crises, certain difficulties at varying points in their life, and at times it may become difficult to cope with these difficulties. At such times, counseling can definitely help!

One such area in which a psychologist can help is when your marriage is going through a rough patch. Marital counseling or marital therapy is very much the need of the day. Day by day, psychologists see an increase in the number of couples who come to them to seek their help in sorting out their marriage……why is this the case? A look at the statistics will show us that the divorce rates in urban India are on the rise. The very definition of the term “marriage” has altered; it is no longer seen as a “Till death do us part” kind of a commitment. Couples today have different expectations from their marriage and from their spouse, different roles to play in the relationship, and different ways of coping with difficulties then was the case earlier. With women becoming more independent, emotionally as well as financially, the status quo within the partners has changed. Whereas earlier the woman was assumed to be the submissive partner, this is no longer accepted by women today. This in turn has given rise to issues related to equality, responsibility sharing within the marriage and the dividing lines between the roles played out by the husband and the wife have dimmed.

So, if the above scenario applies to you, if you identify with one or more of the issues mentioned above, what should you do? Where does this leave you and your marriage? Is it a totally hopeless scene for you? Or do you think you can seek the help of a marriage counselor to help you sort certain things out?

Before you answer to this question with either a “Yes” or a “No”, let us look at some of the myths regarding marriage counseling, as well as the facts.

Myth: You should not take your internal family problems to the outside world. You have to deal your problems on your own.

Reality: At times, when you are undergoing a stressful situation, you tend to lose perspective, and it becomes difficult for you to assess the situation objectively. Your family and friends are also involved, because they care for you, and they will tell you whether you are “right” or “wrong” in behaving or thinking in some way. They may also be unable to be objective about what you are going to. They are either on your side or your spouse’s! A marriage counselor, on the other hand, is trained to help you see the situation in an unbiased, objective manner. He or she has no vested interest in anybody’s side, and his/her only intent is to help you assess the situation in a better way so that certain conflicts can be resolved.

Myth: I am totally confused and don’t know what to do. I will go to a marriage counselor who will tell me what I should be doing.

Reality: A therapist will not take a decision for you! S/he will help you see the pros and cons, assess certain conflict areas objectively, take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions and arrive at certain conclusions. S/he will not advise you on what you should be doing; the ultimate decision has to be yours and your spouse’s.

Myth: I will go to a therapist as a last resort, if nothing else works.

Reality: My clinical experience has shown that the earlier the couple comes to the psychologist, the more likely they are to remain in the relationship. When conflicts escalate, a lot of bitterness and resentment in created is the minds of the spouses, and after a certain point, it becomes difficult to put that behind and work on the marriage. So the moment you realize that things are going out of your control, contact a marriage therapist! It will help you cope with problems before they become too big.

Myth: Counseling will definitely save my marriage.

Reality: Not always. Sometimes, through counseling, you may come to the realization that it is best that you and your spouse part ways and separate. Sad though this may be, at times that might be the best possible outcome. Most times though, the role of a counselor is to see whether the couple can work on their differences, learn to accept each other with the “flaws”, learn to compromise and live happily despite the differences.

So, if you or anyone you know is grappling with a marital difficulty and is unable to deal with it, do think about consulting with a marriage counselor. Sometimes, even a single session is enough to see things in perspective and take certain decisions; at other times, the problems may be more deep rooted and would require a number of sessions, jointly or individually, depending on the dynamics of the marital dyad, before you can reach any kind of resolution. But at least you will be on the right step toward the resolution of your problems.

Ms. Samindara Hardikar-Sawant

Clinical Psychologist

Disha Counseling Center