MOST married couples go through a period of premarital counselling before tying the knot, and this usually reveals secrets about the relationship in either a covert or overt way.
Many counsellors will tell you that by interacting with couples they can detect clues as to the future success or failure of a relationship.
Family and marriage counsellor Wayne Powell explained that part of his job is to point out perceived red flags, then allow the couple to make a decision one way or the other. But he said at the end of the day it's the clients' call, not the counsellor's.
Marriage officer and general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, Reverend Karl Johnson, on the other hand, says there are some things you don't need a magnifying glass or prayer and fasting to see.
“If people have different values — one believes in mendicancy while the other believes in prosperity — you will have a problem. So a difference in moral underpinnings, world views, is almost like having two trains heading towards each other on the same track. They are bound to collide,” he said.
It is impossible, he continued, to look at a couple and try to determine their future together based on compatibility.
“I don't like using the term 'compatibility'. Marriage is more of a situation where two lives can merge, as against clashing. Sometimes you can look, but I'd rather figure it out through premarital counselling. Plus, I'm not God. You can't judge a book by its cover. By simply looking on, you're going by biases and prejudices and not an objective position. Some things you can understand by observation, such as how one treats their partner in public and certain attitudes. But it's not advisable to make judgements about people without subjecting them to objective interactions,” he pointed out.
How can premarital counselling reveal underlying problems? Johnson said the sessions are usually used to raise family history, issues of finance, and certain things we take for granted like role expectations and household chores.
“For example, if you're someone who grew up without a sound family background or sound view of the family, how do you mesh with someone who wants six children and has a strong regard for traditional family values?” he asked.
He added: “We also consider expectations when it comes to things like cooking. Regarding a couple I'm counselling, the female thought her fiancé liked to eat out, but he thought she didn't like to cook, hence they were eating out. Now they realise they were eating out for the wrong reasons. When we examined role expectations, he said she should want to prepare a meal at home sometimes.”
The marriage officer said many people often underestimate how their disparate approach to finances can destroy a relationship, but he usually has an idea of the outcome based on the responses to this and other issues raised.
“It gives a sense as to here is a couple willing to affirm their sense of worth to each other and work together. I don't believe marriage causes you to lose yourself, but some people lose themselves and then the marriage becomes me and my property, and if you on the receiving end don't see yourself as someone's property, it will be a problem,” Johnson said.
To further illustrate how differences in expectations can create disappointment, Johnson gave the example of the first couple he married. He shared that they lived together in a common-law union for 25 years, but within a year of being married they were on the brink of breaking up.
“When I called them up, the man said he came home from the field for the first time in 25 years and his dinner was not ready. The woman said she never felt well. He said, 'So all these years it's the first time you're not feeling well'. She said no, but this time she never felt afraid that he would leave because dinner wasn't prepared. Being married gave her that sense of feeling secure,” he said.
However, Johnson maintained that marriage should provide a space to be yourself and should not be considered bondage and imprisonment; otherwise you will have irremediable problems.