I have been asked this question several times. What is it that has created the need and why is it so important? Marriage is an age old institution, most people managed their relationship quite well. They did not require premarital counseling. So why this need now? Many wonder.
There have been so many changes lately, that its impact on relationship needs to be understood. Changes in society, economic front as well as global trends have had an impact.
Family unit itself has undergone a change. There used to be joint families, now there are unit families. These unit families may not be in visiting distance, there could be large geographical distance between units. And most families now have one at the most two children.
Irrespective of gender, the child/children are given access to all available opportunities. What ever can be affordable. So boys and girls have equal chance at whatever is available.
The dynamics of marriage too has changed. Earlier the roles were very well defined. The man is the provider, the woman is the nurturer. Now roles are blurring. Each partner is having a career of choice, working extended hours, working to different time zones and even working in different geographical locations. So who is the provider and who is the nurturer? There are also role reversals happening. The wife works, and the husband takes on the role of a nurturer.
When a person gets married, he/she has additional roles to play. A man is no longer a son only, he is also the son-in-law. So the additional roles will have their own expectations. These need to be understood. When a new relationship emerges, role changes occurs and newer responsibilities too come in.
Marriage in our society is more a coming together of two families. So when a marriage is about to be fixed, the families will make inquires about the boy/girl’s education status, career status, as also the status of the families’ social/economic levels. There will be several discussions happening and visits to each other’s homes could happen.
In the midst of all this, the boy and the girl are ignored. That is, whether these youngsters are psychologically ready for marriage? They will have several doubts, fears, anxieties and misapprehensions. Who will address them? Many youngsters come to me with sexual doubts. These youngsters need to be encouraged to meet a professional and seek clarification. When so much is being spent on the wedding itself, why not some expense for psychological intervention?
The youngsters inputs are taken; what clothing they wish, what type of jewelery they want, who they want to invite, etc. But they are not asked if they have any questions that need to be answered. As a part of the wedding package, parents need to understand the importance of premarital counseling and send their youngsters for counseling.
The next change that has occurred in today’s world is that of women empowerment. A truly welcome phenomenon and something to be proud of. Young girls are encouraged to study and have a career. These young girls are mostly academic oriented, so for them studying and preparing for a career is quite easy. By the time these young ladies have completed their professional courses, and have landed a job, they are in their mid-twenties. They are financially independent and also mature at this age. They feel they need to be taken seriously, since they are handling responsible careers. These young ladies have their own expectations, dreams and goals. And they do not wish to compromise on them. Some young men have written to ask why girls prefer only metro men. Why not? It is not a question of right or wrong. It is a question of their expectations. Just as men have expectations, girls too have them and they are not afraid now to express them.
All these are the various reasons why youngsters get confused and need direction. It is not always possible for elders or parents to address all these issues. So professional counseling will help.
Each person comes into the marriage with his/her own template as to how the relationship should be. It is a subconscious template. This template could be based on their parental marriage or be quite opposite of that. What premarital counseling does is to make them understand that their marriage is unique; all marriages are individual in nature, and that they can form their own template. It need not be a copy or something opposite of another.
Premarital counseling helps the youngsters to enjoy their marriage, and gives them the required tools for their tool box to handle issues and disputes. It is not aimed to prevent divorce. It is done to give the youngsters a chance at making a success of their relationship and also being happy in the process. It is a building exercise; one that can only lead to positive things.