Marriage counselling – ‘The Stigma’
If I have a blocked drain, I call a plumber. When my cupboards cave, I call a cabinet maker. When I suffer with a bladder infection, I see my doctor and sometimes when it persists I even need to see a urologist! Why is it encouraged and accepted to see these experts and yet when our marriages are slowly falling apart, it is regarded as taboo to seek support or even admit to seeing a marriage counselor for guidance?
I will be bold to share that in my first marriage, counselling was non existent until it was too late. My then partner and I seemed like the ideal…the perfect couple to the outside world. Yet, we were slowly wilting as the years went by. I believe that perhaps even our ego’s insisted on showing the world that we were good – trying to live up to the ‘perfection’ our friends perceived we had. So it was obviously a huge shock and disappointment to all when we went our separate ways.
Four years into my new marriage and I will honest with all of you and share that Shoukey and I have seen a therapist – not once but a few times. And yes, he doesn’t mind my sharing this with all of you. Due to our past and our experiences, we both agree that as long as there is shame around the idea of getting help to build our marriages, many will not give counselling the time of day.
Shoukey and I believe we have a strong relationship. We talk often and laugh just as often. He is my best friend and I am his. I believe that we adore one another and have every intention of staying together for the long haul. And yet…. a few years ago we had an impasse in our communication and we were arguing often – well, I argued and he disengaged entirely. We loved one another completely but we were unable to reach each other without the perspective of a professional.
We were completely conscious to the fact that many couples out there endured the pain of an unhappy marriage even if they were killing one other. This idea most definitely was not one we were going to subscribe to – especially since the very challenge we were facing somehow was a repeat of both our past. We needed intervention as we needed to remain true to the contract we created and signed before we tied the knot. It was the very thing which kept us bound to seeking help.
Shoukey agreed to finding help as he was not prepared to allow us both to vanish further down the rabbit hole. We had no intention of seeking advice from family or friends as we not only felt we would be judged but it could spiral into conflict of a different nature later (and non of them ever mentioned ever going for therapy themselves). I was recommended to a well known therapist in our community – the one who later became my mentor, mother and confidante. We had a good few sessions with her and she made us work our butts off by doing research within ourself as well!
Counselling can help end a fruitless marriage or strengthen a faltering one. It supports in redefining and clarifying roles, responsibilities and reinforces stale commitment. Our therapist was kind, neutral, loving but most importantly she offered a safe space for us to air what many of us would rather die with – a place to share grievances and a space to confess faults. I am so grateful that both Shoukey and I decided to put our pride in our pocket and made the decision to recommit to a vow we made when we married. And guess what…I would definitely go back should the need arise in the future. Our relationship is now better than ever, cracks are sealed and our communication dramatically improved. As for me, it highlighted so much about myself and my role in advancing an already magical relationship!
I think there is an expectation out there that a good marriage never falters – that it doesn’t require outside intervention to remain vital and healthy. Romantic movies end with “happily-ever-after.” They rarely include an epilogue that shows the couples’ woes over finances, religion, family, sex, and career. Our magical nikkah (marriage) was a mere blip on the timeline of our marriage. It takes energy and desire to stay together while flying on autopilot just causes fatal relationship crashes (or snowballing resentment, dissatisfaction, and stultifying boredom).