"Match-making" isn't quite like "match-fixing" in sport. In India, the practice is still part of tradition - of alliances made on the basis of horoscopes, religious, cultural and/or financial backgrounds. This isn't quite the thing we need to aspire for - in order to make a marriage, a healthy marriage, even if it does in many instances.
It is time we start ascertaining the compatibility of a couple to make marriages work better - and, on more practical and realistic grounds by way of pre-marital counselling and certain pre-marriage medical check-ups. The reason is simple. Like Western countries, the divorce rate in our country is climbing steadily.
The cause of divorce in a majority of instances is found to be either physical incompatibility or emotional incongruity between partners. As counsellors, our personal observation has been that in 90 per cent of cases the trauma of divorce can be avoided, if only the couple sought pre-marital counselling, including certain medical investigations, just before getting into matrimony.
It is essential to know about the physical wellbeing of both partners before they marry, particularly about one's "reproductive ability", and diseases that could be transmitted sexually.
A simple semen examination of the groom-to-be and sonography examination of the uterus and ovaries of the bride-to-be are recommended as screening tests - to assess the reproductive ability of the couple.
People are fast becoming aware of HIV testing before marriage; however, a majority still do not know about the "window period." If a person is infected with HIV, the blood test [Elisa for HIV antibodies] shows positive only after three months. The period of initial three months, when the test is negative, is known as the "window period." This is a dangerous phase, as it gives the false impression that a person is HIV negative. In other words, the infected person can transmit the infection to others through unprotected sex. We strongly recommend two HIV tests with a gap of three months before marriage.
Besides HIV, it is also necessary to test for another fatal disease that is transmitted sexually - hepatitis-B. A carrier of hepatitis-B appears healthy outwardly, but can transmit the deadly disease to the partner through sexual contact.
Syphilis, though fully treatable, is also a dangerous sexually-transmitted-disease [STD] if undetected. It is particularly notorious as it plays hide-n-seek with the patient giving him/her false signals of self-recovery, while progressing in the body. Thus, a VDRL test, or TPHA test, for syphilis is a must in all check-ups before marriage.
Apart from sexually-transmitted-diseases, it is essential to know whether both partners are unknowingly carrying thalassaemia minor traits. This may manifest in the form of a thalassaemia major child. Thalassaemia major is a debilitating congenital disorder, and no parent would like to face this nightmare.
Blood group matching before marriage is given undue importance by some ill-informed people. It carries importance only to the point, that, if Rh factors of both the partners are not matching, it can be harmful for the second child of the couple. However this may be, if such incompatibility is known beforehand, precaution could be taken to avoid any harm to the second child. An injection of anti-D-immunoglobulin to the mother immediately after the birth of her first child [or, first abortion] is all that is required to prevent any harm to the subsequent pregnancy.
Understand to empathise
We need to extend a very sincere approach towards marriage, as it is one of the most important decisions of our life. We need to also prepare our young generation to tie the hallowed knot with more awareness, clarity and understanding, and be loving, caring, respectful, and considerate towards their partners
- We need to give our progeny correct and complete sex education, a healthy understanding of their new relationship and teach them the art of enjoying their freedom with responsibility
- We need to make them understand the difference between male and female sexuality and feel comfortable with their own sexuality, as a on can relate sexually with the other in a healthy manner only when s/he is comfortable with his/her own sexuality
- Sex education sessions need to include a frank discussion on family planning and contraceptive measures to be used. Planned parenthood, which takes into account the feelings of both partners, is extremely important in order to have a pleasant feeling during pregnancy. This creates an agreeable, conducive environment to welcome a healthy child.
Besides physical tests and educating the couple about human sexuality and relating with sensitivity, pre-marriage counselling also includes provoking the couple to discuss crucial issues which could become contaminants in their married life - e.g., religious practices and customs. In addition to this, you need to also address beliefs, habits, financial and social values, role of in-laws and the extended family in the life of the couple, duties and responsibilities, career and lifestyle choices, chronic ailments, if any, history of psychiatric disorder, if any, in self and the partner, or in the family etc.,
Nearly 90 per cent of marriages in India continue to be fashioned around arranged matrimony - merely an arrangement done by two well-suited families to keep up a tradition. This needs to be changed - for the better.
Arranged marriages, thanks to the way they are planned and executed, lack the opportunity and atmosphere for a couple to get truly well-acquainted with each other before marriage.
This is not all. Even in love marriages, or engagements, which last for a long period, there is invariably a hesitation on the part of the couple to raise extremely crucial questions regarding values and lifestyles, which when they remain undiscussed and unaddressed, can be extremely detrimental for the relationship post-marriage. It is, therefore, imperative that we provide couples with the opportunity and provoke them to freely and frankly discuss sensitive, yet crucial issues pre-maritally - to prevent as far as possible a breakdown of marriage.
It is also vital that hard and awkward questions which most couples avoid talking about, when they are experiencing the "highs" of passion, be genuinely and thoroughly addressed in order to avoid the "lows," or "the-bruised-blue" feelings after marriage.
One more thing. During counselling sessions, the couple needs to be taught problem-solving skills and the art of healthy communication to resolve differences of opinion in a win-win manner.
Once this is done, the couple will be able to tie the nuptial knot with confidence and maturity.
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