How Marital Therapy Saved My Marriage Before It Even Began

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By Sheba Siddiqui  Staff Writer @shebasid & online at www.shebasiddiqui.com

I swore I would never get married. I never dreamed of my wedding as a young child, never imagined my ‘knight in shining armor’ and drove my mother crazy with the flat out refusal of any rishta (marriage inquiry) sent my way. I didn’t know very many happy marriages and those of my friends who were married just seemed so unhappy and dissatisfied.

Even my parents’ generation, who had mostly had arranged marriages, seemed like they were going through the motions without any actual emotions. That did not appeal to me at all. Many of my friends had gotten married to get out of their parents homes and those that had married for ‘love’ seemed filled with regret five years later. I already lived on my own and love was not something I was looking for at all – other than from friends, family and my cat Kyla. I did want to be a mother someday but I just couldn’t imagine the husband part and had no interest in finding one.

Then, one warm Toronto June evening, I met Saud. He was wearing a black leather jacket the first time I saw him, standing tall, dark and oh so ever handsome. He came over to say hi to my friend and fellow condo neighbor at a birthday party we were celebrating with a group of friends and I was smitten. I was no fool though. I admired him from a distance but had no desire or intention to get to know him better. I was perfectly happy living my downtown Toronto life, establishing my new career and enjoying my spare time with great friends. At the ripe old age of 27, I did not believe that life could have gotten any better. I had never felt happiness like that, was surrounded by wonderful people and loved who I was blossoming into…so why would I do something silly like go and get married?

 

But alas, the saying goes “You plan, God laughs”. So it was out of my control that Saud and I were to reconnect months later and sparks were to fly. After four short months of getting to know each other, we decided we wanted to explore the possibility of getting married.
I knew there was something special about Saud. I was no fool when it came to the opposite sex. He was confident without being arrogant, secure in himself, ambitious, had his own life plan, insisted I have one of my own (which I did), had plenty of life experience, was spiritual and had no interest in trying to change one thing about my independent, opinionated and rebellious self.
After spending a few weeks in my own thoughts, thinking about whether this man really was who he said he was, did what he said he did and wanted what he said he wanted out of life, I brought up pre-marital therapy. I approached the possibility of getting married very clinically. I knew nothing about a happy marriage, so how was I supposed to have one?

 

His reaction would say a lot about him and how open he was to having a healthy, happy marriage. He was on board! So we did some research into marriage therapists, made some calls, interviewed some therapists and found someone we loved. At this point, wedding preparations were well under way. Our mothers had sort of taken over which was fine with me. What mattered to me was the marriage. I really didn’t care too much about the actual wedding.

 

Therapy is such a taboo subject in South Asian culture. You just don’t talk about your problems, much less with a stranger. But I know too many people who live in misery or suffer from the “Invisible Divorce”, as per MySahana’s article which you can read here. I don’t want that…ever. I know too many couples who stay together for the sake of the kids and I know firsthand that that’s the worst reason to stay together.  I don’t want that for my kids. Kids aside, I don’t want that for myself. I deserve more than that and I am willing to work for it.
So there we were, booking wedding halls, going to bridal fittings, choosing cake and flowers – all at the height of our excitement about each other and in the phase of thinking the other could do no wrong. In the midst of all the wedding hoopla, we’d manage to dash off to our therapy appointments to discuss what we wanted from this marriage. I thought it might be fun and maybe we’d learn something new. Boy, did we ever. Pre-marital therapy was one of the best things I ever did for myself, my marriage and my children. For one, we learned how to communicate. I mean really communicate.

 

We learned how to fight. Not kicking, screaming and throwing things fight, but really fight, in a respectful and civilized manner. Yes, it IS possible, even in the heat of the moment. It’s a matter of maintaining control over yourself and expressing your emotions and feelings in a healthy, loving and respectful manner while feeling like you’re actually being heard. We learned that whatever we are fighting about, regardless of how passionate or serious we are, is never the real issue at hand and that we need to dig deeper, remove the layers and get to the root of it…where the vulnerability lies.

Not only has therapy made me a better wife but a better mother as well. I understand myself better, why I react or feel a certain way and this in turn gives me the patience I need to give my kids the best of me. Finally, we learned how committed we both are to making this marriage work happily. Not just work, but work happily. 

Many people want to survive. Not me. I want to flourish. Surviving is the bare minimum of staying alive. Simply surviving sounds awful to me. I want to flourish and grow and get better and better every day. Which is one reason why pre-marital therapy blossomed into marital therapy. We learned so much and benefited insurmountably from pre-marital therapy that we thought, why stop now? And I highly recommend it.

 

I’ve been married a mere six years. But they’ve been some of the happiest and most fulfilling years of my life. He doesn’t ‘complete’ me but he is my other half. I know that no one can love me as much as I need to love myself and respect and trust are shown through everyday actions. We both have our own things going on and encourage and support each other in our endeavors. I don’t want to be a part of everything in his life and certainly don’t want him to be a part of all of my adventures. We need our friends, families and separate interests to thrive. Not only to thrive, but to leave something to talk about at the dinner table!

Last year, I had a friend call me with some marital problems. I listened to her and then suggested she try marital therapy. Her response was “What if things come up in marital therapy that I don’t want to hear or know about?”, but that’s the beauty of it. Things will come up that you don’t want to hear. And then you will work through it TOGETHER. It’s beautiful and all encompassing. It empowers you as a couple. It’s never the big stuff that we argue about, it’s always the small stuff that accumulates over time. Therapy is a way of nipping it in the bud. Of taking what is in the deepest, darkest area of your subconscious and bringing it out into the open. You REALLY get to know yourself and find out new things about your partner, regardless of how long you’ve been married.

 

I definitely don’t have all the answers to a happy marriage. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll be blogging about life as a single mother. But what I do know is that marital therapy is an incredible tool for making your marriage go from good to great. Many people seem to think it’s for couples who are going through a difficult time or on the verge of a divorce, but what they don’t know is that if you happen to try it in your happier times, you’ll be surprised to learn that the sky’s the limit when it comes to marital bliss.

More about Sheba

Sheba Siddiqui is a reporter and television producer, currently hosting and producing The Bulletin Board on Rogers TV across the GTA. Upon graduating from the University of Toronto and working in finance, she felt like something was missing in her life and returned to school to pursue her passion in broadcast journalism at Seneca @ York. Sheba realized another passion in her after getting married and having children; motherhood. She recently spent a month traveling across India with her two toddler boys and husband and was reminded of how blessed she is to be a South Asian woman and mother. She began blogging again after many years and found she had discovered her voice in her writing. Sheba tries to connect with women and mothers by writing about pertinent issues in her community or as a working mother trying to balance it all. Sheba loves food, fiction and fashion and spends her free time traveling the globe and answering her toddlers’ mile-a-minute questions. Check out her blog: www.shebasphere.blogspot.com

 


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There are 5 comments

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  1. Saima

    Hey Sheba,

    Great article! I definitely agree with you on the marriage counselling being such a taboo in our culture. Although, I had never heard of pre-marital therapy before!

    I am sure therapy works, but not for all. You have to be willing to dig deeper to solve the existing problems, you have to be willing to dedicate that much time of your life to save your marriage (or future marriage), you HAVE to believe that your marriage is worth saving. I know a few people whose marriages fell apart and they hadn’t even bothered trying it. For some it was not even an option because of cultural views and for some, lack of dedication. At the end of day, if you really want something to work, you’ll make it work. No matter how far you have to go to achieve your goal.

    As for you, I am sure that the therapy doesn’t take all the credit of saving your marriage even before it began, it was both of your love and effort to make it work.

  2. Sheba S.

    Hi Saima,

    You are right, it definitely takes dedication and commitment from both people in order for therapy to work. I am very blessed that my husband was on board with trying it out.
    It’s unfortunate that the stigma behind it stops many people from trying it out. You never know what can happen unless you try. It might help a couple reconnect or it might help them separate in a healthy manner.
    I started off in pre-marital therapy and six years later, I am still in marital therapy. For us, it works. I hope that by talking about it, it might help others to understand its benefits and maybe even decide to try it.

    Thank you for your comment!
    Sheba

  3. Sara

    Hi Sheba,

    Great article. I can defintely relate to your pre-marriage concerns. I like the fact that the marriage was important to you and not just the wedding day. A lot of couples don’t give much thought about what their married life will be like, instead the focus seems to be their hyped-up dream wedding.
    I wish more couples would take the time to discuss their expectations to each other and their marriage before they get married.

    Sara

  4. Sheba S.

    Hi Sara,

    So great to hear that you can relate to the pre-marital concerns. God knows marriage is a huge step and none of us go into it thinking about the tough times, which there inevitably will be! I agree with you and I hope by starting some dialogue on it, we can all start thinking about what happens once the gifts are unwrapped, suitcases are unpacked and the dust begins to settle into real life.
    Thanks for your comment!

    Sheba

  5. Laura

    Hi Sheba,

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for writing this! I came across your article while searching for pre-martial counselling in Toronto.

    Like you, I wasn’t someone who’d been dreaming of their wedding their entire life and didn’t even know if I’d ever meet anybody to whom I’d want to make that commitment.

    However, God had other plans for me and I was lucky enough to find a man who is my perfect complement. We’re now preparing to get married and want to get counselling before we do.

    Being a fellow Torontonian, I was wondering if you had any recommendations for therapists/resources? My initial searches have yielded a lot of religious based or religious sponsored resources and we were hoping to find something secular.

    Thanks so much again for writing this! I’m south asian too and I know just how much counselling can be frowned upon. However, I intend to get married only once and want us to thrive as a couple so I’ll take all the help I can get!

    Best wishes,

    Laura


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