Mon | Oct 23, 2017

Marriage unmasked

Published:Sunday | January 18, 2015 | 12:00 AM

High divorce rate linked to couples tying the knot without proper premarital counselling

Nadine Wilson-Harris, Staff Reporter

A reduction in the number of persons going for premarital counselling, poor counselling by some pastors, and the failure of some couples to accept the advice of counsellors are all being blamed for the rising number of divorces recorded locally.

"Prior to getting married, we are in the business of trying to impress each other. The man is trying to impress the woman and the woman is trying to impress the man, so they are putting their best foot forward.

"You have a male mask that is dating or courting a female mask. When they get married, these masks come off," argued family psychologist and chief executive officer of the Family Life Ministries, Dr Barry Davidson.

He was responding to reports from the Statistical Institute of Jamaica that more than 12,000 divorces have been granted locally between 2008 and 2013.

In one case, Caroline knew by her third premarital counselling session that her husband-to-be was a fraud. But she had already bought her dress, invitations had been sent out, food had been bought and the date had been set.

Today, the mother of three finds herself in a bitter divorce battle after years of physical and verbal abuse by her husband.

"The counsellor was extremely good at what he does, and by the third session I had discovered things and personality traits about my fiancé that I found somewhat disturbing, and I began to have serious doubts as to whether I really knew him at all," she said.

"I realised that the little things I perceived as just 'exaggerations' when he expressed himself were really not exaggerations but lies. By the end of the final session, which was a week before the wedding, I knew I didn't want to proceed with the wedding," Caroline told The Sunday Gleaner. "The only reason I proceeded with the wedding was because I had already invested so much into the wedding itself," she said.

THE MISSING YEARS

Caroline and her husband were married for 10 years, but she said six of those years "barely existed".

"Emotionally, I had shut off completely after the second year because of the emotional abuse experienced. By year six when the physical abuse began, I had lost interest in sex and intimacy completely and existed like a robot when required to be intimate," she said.

Dr Lenworth Anglin, lecturer at the Jamaica Theological Seminary and the immediate past executive chairman of the Church of God in Jamaica, noted that pastors sometimes met with objections when they suggested that a couple not marry because of information discovered during the pre-marital counselling sessions.

"The fact is that when people get to where they are in love, sometimes they become so subjectively involved that they are kind of not so rational. Sometimes just the euphoria of the marriage or getting married supersedes some of the rational points," said Anglin.

"Some people have a way of making plans for the wedding ahead of the counselling, and so they sometimes feel they have gone too far with the planning and the investing of money."

Anglin believes that this is one of the factors that have contributed to the country's high divorce rates.

For Davidson, the divorce numbers would have been higher without the intervention of premarital counselling. He noted that at least 40 per cent of the couples he counselled did not get married as a result of what was revealed during the sessions. However, there are those who proceeded with the wedding and eventually had to get a divorce.

"I had a case where a man cussed me out good and proper. He was like, 'who the hell do you think you are, you are behaving like God', and walked out with his lady, went to some pastor who married them and the marriage broke up on the honeymoon."

The psychologist said it was obvious during the counselling session that the man was jealous and that the woman was fearful of him.

"What happened is that they were on the honeymoon walking on the beach and a guy said 'hey, good looking', and the lady turned around and smiled. The husband took her into the room and gave her one good beating and the marriage ended right there," said Davidson.

The psychologist said pre-marital counselling is very important as it helps to unmask individuals before they make a lifelong commitment to each other. It is for this reason he thinks it should be done long before wedding preparations start to take place.

Currently, premarital counselling is mandatory for couples getting married in most churches locally. However Davidson laments the fact that the sort of counselling offered by some pastors is insufficient.

"What a lot of pastors do, for instance, is that what is passed off as premarital counselling is really a sermonette. They give you a little sermon or a little guidance, a little advice, but there is nothing therapeutic about it and no unmasking takes place," he said.