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Health Corners
Preparing for Marriage

Marriage is one of the most crucial steps that a person takes during his or her lifetime. Yet, many a time, couples get married without being completely aware of the implications of married life. The couples are often not fully prepared physically and psychologically for marriage. Just as with anything else in life, it pays to know about what you are getting into with marriage as well. After all, marriage is a commitment that must last happily over the greater part of your life. As you prepare to marry, you need to learn about your new role as a spouse. What will it take emotionally and physically to get your marriage off to a good start? Later, as conflict areas come up, what will you do to resolve them? These are important issues to think through before you tie the knot.

Marriage and Emotional Needs

One of the reasons for people to get married is to satisfy their emotional needs. Whether you marry for love or your marriage is arranged, there are certain emotional needs that must be met for your marriage to be successful. Being sexually compatible is not enough by a long shot. You must be able to provide each other companionship, affection and good conversation. Remember that marriage is a relationship that will grow with you and remain a part of your life for decades to come.

Companionship: If you spend your free time by “doing your own thing”, your marriage is likely to run into trouble. While it is essential to pursue your individual interests and spend time with your friends, it is of utmost importance that you spend time together. Merely doing the housework or discussing finances is not spending time together. Identify the things that both of you like to do and do them together – whether it is watching a TV show or going for a walk. Recreational companionship is very important for your marriage to survive in the long term. Counsellors are of the opinion that it is a key factor in drawing and keeping couples together.
 

Affection: Showing your spouse that you care means more than just saying, “I love you”. Your spouse needs to feel appreciated and wanted just as much as you do. Kindness, gentleness and consideration are all part of showing affection. The love that you need to nurture for your spouse should be unconditional – regardless of his or her defects. It is the kind of affection that must be able to endure, perhaps over very difficult times. When your marriage is endangered by conflict, one of the things that will keep you together is the depth of affection you have for each other. Affection is also a prerequisite for sustained sexual fulfillment in a relationship.
 

Conversation: In the initial months after marriage, there is usually a lot to talk about. But once you settle into the routine of everyday life, conversation is not as easy as it was before. What do you say to someone with whom you spend such a lot of your time? Many couples say that they have nothing new to talk about. This only means that they are not making an effort, or are doing so grudgingly. Right from the beginning, make it a point to talk to your spouse about a wide variety of things – what you did on a particular day, what you felt about something that happened between the two of you, things that are in the news, common or individual interests, and opinions. Also, encourage your spouse to do the same, by being a good listener. Make conversation a habit.– It will pay off a great deal in the later years of your marriage. Keep time for this; don’t let anything get in the way, not even television!

Marriage and sex

Sex can be a little daunting for the uninitiated, but remember that it is one of life’s most natural functions. Don’t worry too much about it. The more you worry, the less likely you are to enjoy yourself or make your partner happy. Get your facts straight, remind yourself of how much you care for your partner, be prepared for birth control and learn about personal hygiene – that’s about all the preparation you need for this new experience.

Getting your facts straight: At the beginning, couples either look forward to or are a little frightened by sex. Both reactions are completely normal. For many people, sex itself is something new and unfamiliar, even though sexual desire is not. Sexual fulfillment is an important aspect of married life for both partners. Before you have sex, it is worthwhile to read about it and find the answers to whatever doubts you might have. When you choose a book on sex, try and find something that gives you the facts without being sensational. Knowledge gives you confidence and makes you assured. It is important for you to understand the different phases of the menstrual cycle and to know the structure and function of the reproductive system.
 

Affection towards your spouse: The most important prerequisite for sustained sexual fulfillment is affection on both sides. Loving your spouse and wanting to make him or her happy will arm you with an instinctive knowledge of what you should or should not do; the rest will come with time and experience. Talking about your feelings and being considerate and gentle helps to develop the sense of intimacy that is necessary for sexual closeness. The pain of losing virginity is also minimized when the dominating emotion is love and care. If you have persistent pain and discomfort during sex, visit your doctor.
 

Birth control: You must learn about and decide on birth control as soon as possible. Use condoms until you both make the time to visit a doctor together. Your doctor will advise you on the best methods of contraception for you and you can make a choice based on personal needs, after learning about the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Do not ignore this issue – it is important that you don’t have a child until you are ready for it and have discussed the subject at length. Medical termination of pregnancy and “morning after” pills are not advocated unless there is no other choice. Preventive contraception is the safest, happiest and least stressful way of avoiding pregnancy.
 

Personal hygiene: Make sure that you are scrupulously hygienic before and after sex. If you do not pay attention to this, you could end up with uncomfortable infections that are easily avoidable. Both partners should make it a point to cleanse the genital area with water both before and after sex. Women should pass urine after sex, as this lessens the chance of a urinary infection. Visit the doctor together and have yourself checked for any possible problems. There is no need to feel embarrassed about visiting a gynecologist; your doctor has probably dealt with a few thousand couples just like you.

Marital conflict

There has not been a single marriage in the history of humankind that has been free of conflict. A successful marriage is one in which both partners accept this, and do their best to resolve the various issues between them. Today there is no longer a stigma attached to seeking help from a counsellor if you are unable to deal with the problem. Marriage counselling is a field by itself, and there are experienced marriage counsellors in every city in India. Some common areas of conflict are:

Not spending enough time together: Companionship is something that all couples need to develop as a lifetime habit. This is the primary purpose of marriage, as even children leave the home at some point. There are decades that have to be spent together after children grow up. The importance of conversation and companionship cannot be stressed enough. The only way of solving problems related to these areas is to actively make an effort to spend more time together, doing things that each one likes in turn.

Financial difficulties: Couples are bound to face some kind of financial stress at some time or the other. If there are children, the couple is committed to their upbringing, whatever the strain on the finances. Finding solutions depends on each individual situation, but support from one partner for the other goes a long way in creating the right atmosphere in the home for problem solving. “We’re in it together” has to be the rule of thumb, before a proper solution can be found and implemented.

Career choices: When both partners in a marriage go out to work, conflicts often arise about household responsibilities and spending time together. It is sometimes unavoidable that one or both partners have to spend a lot of time away from the home. This is a difficult situation and has to be handled with care. The home environment must be such that both partners feel like returning to it after a hard day’s work. Otherwise there is the danger of one partner feeling more at home away from the home than in it. This can lead to “workaholism” and at times extramarital affairs, often at the work place. Both partners should also learn stress management techniques, so as to make the best of the limited time available to them to spend together.

Extramarital affairs: The signs of an extramarital affair are often obvious but sometimes the other partner remains ignorant of it until it is too late. Psychologists and counsellors stress that spending time together in recreational companionship is one of the most important ways in which to keep each other satisfied and stay out of trouble. Being attracted to a third person is not unusual, but the partner’s way of dealing with this situation is based largely on the kind of marriage he or she already has. If there is not enough going for them at home, there is little to hold them back from having an affair. Affairs often happen because couples have ignored persistent problems between themselves and have not accepted or tried to resolve them. Once a person is already involved in such a situation, seeking a counsellor’s help is a good option. This helps to think through the problem rationally, at a distance from the intense emotions of the situation.

Sexual problems: Many inhibitions and fears about sex can be overcome by reading about the subject and clearing your doubts. It is important for you to understand the menstrual cycle and the structure and function of the reproductive system. Not knowing enough about something can often create a mental block or inhibition. Pain during sex can be due to a number of problems and it is advisable to consult a gynecologist if you experience pain persistently. Infections can also cause discomfort, and again, you need to see a doctor if you have persistent itching or burning sensations.

Couples are also nervous, inhibited and bad-tempered if birth control measures are not taken at the right time. Sex should be free from worry and tension, and a suitable method of birth control should be chosen and followed routinely. A doctor will advise you about the type of contraception that is most suited to your needs.

Problems such as impotence and lack of sexual desire often have a deep-rooted psychological basis. Alcoholism or drug addiction is often a cause for a lot of conflict between couples. Sex is the worst affected area due to such conflict. A counsellor’s help should be taken if couples suffer from such problems. Doctors of sexual medicine are also to be found in every city. These problems should not be ignored, as they are can be treated and often require timely help.

Also remember that sex is an individual and personal thing. What is right for one person need not be right for another. Just as in every other aspect of marriage, sex calls for consideration of the other person’s needs. There is no prescription for what is normal, and it is not right for one partner’s needs to dominate all the time. Work out what is best for both partners in a marriage. Sex should not become overly demanding or exhausting for one of the partners.

Dealing with abuse and addiction

Living with a person who is an alcoholic or drug addict is not easy. It takes time for the other partner to make up his or her mind what to do about the problem. Alcoholism or addiction is a disease – a recognized medical condition that requires treatment. Once a person becomes addicted, it is physically very difficult to give up the addiction. Addicts require special help, often involving a residential de-addiction programme that may last for several weeks.

Family support is one of the factors that are most important in determining whether a person will recover or not. Many addicts have been treated successfully and have gone on to lead lives of abstinence and have taken on the responsibilities that are expected of them. Having a supportive family helps them through the de-addiction period as well through the difficult months of readjustment to normal life. It is important for the other members of the family not to look upon themselves as victims. The addict cannot help what he or she does and requires the support and help of the people around to escape the trap. The spouse of an addict must insist on treatment as a condition without which the marriage cannot go on. Addiction harms a marriage terribly. Such a state of affairs soon hurts the other members of the family as badly as it hurts the addict.

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