Get your spouse on the psychiatrist's couch before marriage


Monday, October 22, 2012

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SHOULD individuals do a psychological profile before they get married? I ask this question against the background of a story shared on television by a victim of spousal abuse recently. She shared how her then husband threatened to kill himself if she left him, told her she would be useless without him, and whenever she went to sleep, he (a licensed firearm holder) would clean his gun beside her, clicking it and spinning the barrel of the gun which drove fear into her.

She shared how trapped she felt and the deep depression she was in for many years. Fortunately she was delivered from that situation before it was too late.

Perhaps a psychological assessment would have warned her of his abusive traits, allowing her to think twice about venturing into marriage and sparing her those years of misery and abuse.

There are many Jamaican women who are living under similar conditions. They are trapped physically, emotionally and psychologically in marriages that drain them of hope. This type of situation is not class specific, because a number of professional women who sometimes earn more than their husbands are in these abusive marriages. These women develop learned helplessness: they resign themselves to stay in the situation, may be paralysed by fear, some stay to keep up appearances, others because of the children, the reasons vary.

Because marriage is such an important institution, individuals should think carefully before making the big step. Not because he looks good or he is 'such a gentleman'; or because she is nice or she looks like somebody you could spend the rest of life with, means you are compatible. What someone looks like, sounds like, or acts like in public or even during dating are quite often much different from who he or she really is. These true selves tend to slowly unveil after the wedding ceremony. This is why I think, both individuals should undergo a psychological profile during their premarital counselling. They should do a battery of tests to reveal their personality type and possible pathological problems.

The psychological profile can help to identify disorders or behaviours that could be potential danger signals for the marriage. It can help bring into awareness unresolved issues that either partner may need to address before getting married.

It helps both individuals beforehand to have a better understanding of differences, strengths or weaknesses so they'll be better able to make informed decisions about whether this is the type of person they are willing to live with.

Ladies, I'm sure if you knew the gentleman had control issues that could make him manipulative or abusive you would think twice before you marry him. Gentlemen, I'm sure if you knew the lady had serious issues with her moods that make her almost impossible to please, you would have thought twice before marrying her.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that individuals with personality or other disorders shouldn't marry. I am positing that when persons are aware of situations they can make more informed decisions.

The reality is, some persons are not even aware they possess these traits, and unless they get these professional tests done, they will not be able to know and get help.

There is too much psychological trauma that results from unhappy marriages for individuals to not think seriously about who they plan to marry. Apart from the spouse who suffers the abuse, when children are involved, they too suffer, sometimes silently.

Venese Madden, MSc, is an instructor in the Behavioural Sciences Department at the Northern Caribbean University in Manchester.




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