(As told to Aarti Pathak by Consultant Psychiatrist Rima Mukherjee)
Dr. Rima Mukherji MBBS, DPM, MRCPsych (London)
After gaining 7 years of experience in the UK, Dr. Mukherji set up the renowned Crystal Minds, a mental wellness centre (with a multidisciplinary team offering a wide range of psychiatric and psychological services for all age groups) in Kolkata. Over the past 20 years she has won several laurels to her name due to her fierce passion and her vision for a safe society that is geared towards living without the fear of stigma, experiencing awareness and promoting positive mental health.
Marriage counselling helps couples resolve their conflicts and improve their relationships. It is beneficial to seek counselling when the issue is small and nip it in the bud. Other times when a couple is going through a difficult time or strong differences of opinion, counselling can help them handle the delicate situation in a practical and healthy manner.
Ten probable signs or times that a couple may benefit from marriage counselling are:
Adjustment problems immediately after marriage
Today, many marriages collapse within a few months. This happens even when individuals marry of their own choice and are in nuclear setups. Simple planning like how to divide the household tasks may erupt into full-blown fights as the pre-marriage fantasy of marriage does not look anything like the reality. It is best to meet a marriage counsellor and sort the teething problems out.
These are seen as common problems that everyone has and they’re expected to sort themselves out in time. Only, they don’t. Many marriages today break up in the first year itself due to in-law problems. Interference in the new bride’s life (she should work/not work/her choice of clothing/lifestyle). A girl’s parents may also be interfering by nature, leaving the young couple frustrated and taking their angst out on each other.
Another interesting observation has been that, often when new husbands say or do something to the new wife, they sound like their mothers (always siding with her). The truth is, that after all the mother raised him and formed his thoughts for years, so this is bound to happen. A neutral person like a counsellor can explain this to them so that neither the young wife nor the husband are left feeling upset due to misunderstandings; and then help them resolve the real issues.
Related reading: 7 things I felt when I met my in-laws for the first time
The taboo around discussion of sex and intercourse leads to couples going silent on sexual problems for years. It is only when the pressure to have a child is unavoidable that these issues are finally recognised and addressed. Sexual problems can refer to differences in sexual urges, erectile dysfunction, frigidity, pornographic addiction and others. Absence of sexual activity can leave either or both partners frustrated over time and leave the relationship brittle. Couples’ counselling and visit to sexologists are hence a must and help the couple understand and sort out the problems and lead satisfying married lives.
Related reading: 5 things men can do for better foreplay!
A couple must definitely take counselling if there has been an affair and they have decided to continue with the marriage and give it a second chance. Both the cheater and the cheated upon need to learn how to move on and help rebuild the lost trust in the marriage. The cheated upon partner also will be taught to move past the bitterness. Most importantly, the counsellor will help the couple arrive at the reason why the marriage broke up in the first place.
A surprisingly large number of young couples are going through severe disturbance in their married life if their approach to parenthood is different. (For instance, one parent may feel that the child is lazy and just needs a beating while the other parent may feel the child simply needs counselling and a talk). Such differences can lead to quarrels and the fights at home affect both the child and the marriage. This is definitely a time one must seek counselling.
Any kind of addiction can seriously hurt a marriage. Alcohol/drugs lead to additional problems too (like financial problems at home, verbal abuse, violence, lying). Counselling is vital at such a time. Addicted individuals respond better to their deaddiction programmes when under counselling. Their partners benefit from counselling, as it teaches them behaviours which support the deaddiction efforts of the addict and helps them cope with the stress.
Many couples today (both husband and wife) are sometimes so addicted to the virtual world that the family and marriage are neglected. The relationship doesn’t get the daily dose of nutrients in terms of moments and conversations together. In time, the marriage weakens and the online friendships strengthen. The casual chats often (unintentionally) turn into deeper friendships and then to online or real affairs. Couples who are so busy on WhatsApp or Facebook that they have nothing to say to each other definitely should consider meeting a marriage counsellor.
Beginning of abuse
Sprouting of any kind of abuse, physical or verbal, will corrode the relationship immediately. Counselling is advised at the earliest. No second thoughts.
Chronic health issues
If one partner has a chronic or critical mental/physical condition, it affects the marriage. The couple must seek counselling so that the ill partner can move past the guilt to a more positive thought process and the other partner can benefit from counselling and move past any feelings of resentment for carrying the extra load.
When the couple has decided to divorce
Once a couple has decided to part ways, counselling is advised so that they can uncouple gracefully and make divorce less unpleasant and start the new chapter of their lives on a more positive note.