When marriage counseling goes wrong
Published On January 3, 2022 » 1019 Views» By Times Reporter » Features
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YOU may, or may not be privy to what goes on during some men’s nights out where their common subject as they talk in between sips of their drinks tends to focus on sex, sports, betting, politics and drinking.
We are now seeing a new age group of social gaming where some men love to relax after a long day’s work before they get home.
Similarly, women too have advanced in the girls’ night out and other social gatherings where they discuss issues such as relationships, careers and topics of interest trending on social media.
I interacted with a counselor who shared a story of abuse that led to the death of a victim a few years ago.
The victim had been married for three years and was subjected to physical abuse constantly by her husband.
Bupe (not her real name) received a beating over trivial issues every time she had misunderstandings with her husband.
But because she was a bread winner in the family who often helped other family members, she received very little support despite the many times she shared her story of abuse.
The response from the rest of the people in her family was that she should persevere.
Over the last few decades, Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been recognised and discussed as a public rather than a private problem.
The manifestation of GBV has been seen through different activities that include forced marriage of young girls, human trafficking, male rape, defilement and many others.
While women are usually the immediate victims of GBV, the consequences of go beyond the victim to the rest of society as a whole.
A report by the Zambia Police states that 4,042 GBV cases were reported countrywide during the third quarter of 2021 compared to 4,620 cases that were reported in the same period in 2020, which showed a reduction of 578 cases, translating into 12.5 per cent.
Despite cases of GBV indicating low numbers, the story of Bupe, who was tortured emotionally and physically resulted from the wrong counseling that she received from her marriage counselor and elderly relations who encouraged her to go back to her husband.
They felt that if Bupe left her husband, her decision would take her back to her parent’s poverty stricken home.
It is during times like this that victims have failed to come out of abuse.
They look at violence as an everyday feature of their intimate relationships.
According to research, counseling is described as a structured conversation between two or more people that assists a participant to work through specific personal problems.
In addition, counselors encourage people to recognise and develop their own coping skills so that they can deal more effectively with problems.
The continued GBV suggests that the gender perspective on violence against women shows us that the root cause of violence lies in the unequal power relations between women and men.
However, effective counseling is required to help improve the self image of people seeking counseling so as facilitate achievement in life tasks.
It has been observed that the vast majority of couples seeking counseling and advice from wrong counselors and friends have ended up in divorce or experienced violence.
A traditional marriage counselor observed how some couples are seeking advice from unqualified marriage counselors, a situation that has created violence in homes.
Maria Chibale has observed an influx of untrained women and men who have joined the group of many marriage counselors resulting in violence in some homes.
“Today, some couples faced with domestic challenges decide to implement negative advice or counseling that is shared from a social platform or wrong conversations from friends and relatives,” the traditional counselor said.
She said couples must understand that it is not everyone who can offer positive advice to the challenges that affect them.
Ms Chibale said it is also important for couples to have mentors who are respected who can advise them in their marriages.
She said it has become common for some men to engage any elderly person to negotiate for marriage as long as the woman agrees to be paid a fee for the service rendered.
Ms Chibale said some men do not even involve their relatives who can help them to identify marriage counselors but prefer getting friends or elderly members in the community to help them in making the marriage arrangements.
“Some men, after a long day’s work, will link up at a local pub to have a beer or two or watch an English league game from the pub’s big screen. It is there that the social chats are done from which some of the men pick some ideas that may be negative and later use such ideas in their homes and has the potential to lead to violence,” she explained.
Ms Chibale said she has witnessed conflicts among couples where a partner has been promoted or transferred to operate in another town and the other partner objects to the affair, citing the fact that such as thing would make it difficult for the family to be together.
She said all views by both partners in marriages must be respected, hence the need for couples to sit and discuss their differences collectively than one individual exercising his or her influence.
“Not all negative talk on social media and public places should be taken seriously as this has the potential to ruin marriages,” she said.
The traditional marriage counselor said many women today have fallen prey to wrong advice that they receive from their friends and family members.
She said there are trained men and women in society who are ready to offer counseling to married couples, including the clergy who are experienced in counseling.
The marriage counselor also encouraged parents to take stock of the marriage counselors that are involved in the procedure of their children’s marriage so that they approach marriage with a positive attitude.
“Marriage counselors need to revisit the teachings that are given to women as we are living in times where society is faced with so many social challenges. In addition, both partners must be counseled before they enter into marriage as the focus has only been on counseling women,” she said.
Ms Chibale said there are some traditional marriage counselors who believe that there is nothing wrong with a man beating up his wife and these are situations where some women get depressed because they feel that the people they trusted have failed them.
Further studies observe that in most African societies where tradition is at play and help is not often available, women’s mental health is affected because they women might see themselves as deserving of violent treatment from their partners for failing to adhere to what is culturally acceptable.
Ms Chibale said there is need for more awareness in the community that can help more couples to come together and develop ways to deal with and overcome marital problems if society is going to address the rising cases of GBV.
As 2022 begins, it must be everyone’s responsibility to ensure that social platforms are used to discuss how society can help people who are experiencing abuse.
With so many social challenges affecting society, the need for counseling has become paramount in order to promote the well being of those affected. jessiengm@gmail.com

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