Ben Affleck and his wife, Jennifer Garner, have often been in the news in the past few months for their decision to file for divorce after 10 years of marriage. But to everyone’s surprise, the couple was seen walking into a marriage counselling centre on September 3. This lead to speculations about whether the duo had decided to work on their marriage. Closer home, Kangana Ranaut and R Madhavan’s on-screen characters, too, sought the help of a therapist in the film, Tanu Weds Manu Returns.
But the question remains, does counselling actually work for couples who face marital issues? Can it save a marriage? We try to find out.Growing trendFor multiple generations, couples in India opted to keep quiet, rather than discuss “private matters” with strangers. Parents, friends, extended family and relatives were typically approached to sort out differences, if any.
However, times are changing. If experts are to be believed, more and more youngsters are visiting professional counsellors to save their marriages.
“The number of people showing up for marriage counselling is rising. One of the reasons is that many people, these days, marry without their parents’ consent. So, going back to them, and asking for a solution is not an option,” says Kinjal Pandya, marriage counsellor.
There are several stressors in a marriage. These could range from, work-related issues to incompatibility problems, and even unrealistic expectations from each other. To make the most of a professional intervention, timing matters. Experts, in fact, admit that acknowledging that you need help early on can go a long way in saving your marriage when you opt for counselling.And some individuals have benefitted from this. Nimish Gupta, 29, an HR consultant, married Karishma Gupta, 27 also in HR, two years ago. But within six months, the couple started having problems due to unrealistic expectations and commitment issues.
A friend suggested that the couple visit a marriage counsellor. Nimish says, “Even after marriage, I used to give a lot of importance to my friends. I would party with them almost daily and not give enough time to my wife. On the other hand, my wife wanted me to be dedicated to her. Counselling helped both of us find a middle path. Now, we are happily married.”
Neeta V Shetty, psychotherapist and relationship coach at Blissful Mind Therapy Centre, adds, “Because of low awareness, people in India go for counselling only as a last resort. But there are multiple reasons why marriages don’t work. It could be due to psychological, parental or stress-related issues, and these need to be addressed swiftly.”
Facing the truth
Marriage counselling is not only about saving marriages. It also involves helping you do what is right. Mahendra Asher, 35, who owns a finance company, was married to Nilanjana Lakhani, 28, a make-up artist, for three years.
“I was possessive about my wife. I had serious trust issues. I used to think that she was cheating on me. After a point, my wife got tired of my behaviour and decided to file for divorce. I went to a counsellor to save my marriage, but I was advised to get divorced. Today, I’m happy with my decision,” says Mahendra.
For some others, it may not work because you are beyond the point of return. Sean D’Silva, 33, who works for a shipping company, and Joanna D’Silva, 30, a school teacher, were married for five years.
Their problems started three years ago, and the couple wanted to file for divorce in 2014. As a last option, the duo went to see a marriage counsellor. “We went for marriagecounselling sessions for about six months, and it didn’t work in our favour. The issues that we had continued,” says Sean. He and Joanna are currently separated, and stay with their respective parents.
(Names of all individuals have been changed on request)