Saturday, July 4, 2020

Can counselling divorce-proof Botswana marriages?

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”The popular verse from the Bible often recited during nuptials flies in the face of most married Batswana couples who think nothing of walking out of a marriage, however very few local churches are taking a stand to ensure that God is not mocked.

Statistics reveal that a growing number of Batswana couples are untying the knot like never before. The divorce rate stood at 56% in 2008 rose to 60% in 2009, 70% in 2010 and is still rising.

While premarital counselling is not a novel thing, the church at large does seem to have bought into the idea. Few pastors require premarital counselling before they will perform a wedding and fewer still will tell a couple that they will not perform the ceremony if they don’t think the couple is ready.

Prophet Chester Tiro of Holy Presence Fire Church in Bontleng who believes in premarital counselling says “Premarital counselling explores each person’s faith and history. It helps the couple examine personal convictions, expectations for their future and responsibilities they will have. More than anything, premarital counselling aims to produce a marriage that is biblical and God-honouring. Studying the Bible is a primary part of Christian premarital counselling and couples often examine the “basics of marriage”. Ministry leaders can help couples planning to get married better understand each other and God’s purpose for this covenant. Premarital counselling that is done in the church is a powerful opportunity to ensure that each person and their relationship are rooted in God and to inspire them to follow His plan for their lives. Churches vary in how they approach premarital counselling. For instance, it is common for a pastor at a small church to meet with the couple directly for Christian premarital counselling. At a larger church, the couple may join other couples in a class with an established curriculum.”

Premarital counselling is a powerful tool that has been proven effective for couples looking to start their marriage off on the right foot. It can help couples learn the skills and have the conversations they need to make their marriage thrive. Despite the growing drive for marital counselling in Botswana, statistics suggests that more couples are walking out of their marriages that ever before.

In the research paper, Perceptions about Pre-Marital Counselling and Marriage. Stability in Botswana: A Case of Towing Village. Gaolatlhe Boyce Lopang, Bakadzimoeti, Kgosidialwa K state that, “Western pre-marital counselling in olden days was rarely heard off in Botswana. Later, religious institutions also started to engage in pre-marital counselling for their members. In the religious set up, the priests are responsible for offering pre-marital counselling. This is to ensure that the congregants live good happy lives in their marriages. This is still the case as in some churches such as the Roman Catholic couples intending to get married are required to attend pre-marital counselling for a period of at least six months before marriage (P. Ragontse, personal communication, March 13, 2016). Today, there is a new form of pre- marital counselling which is offered by well trained and qualified counsellors. This form of counselling has specific ethics and codes of conduct which have clearly written rules and regulations that guide the counselling session. These well qualified counsellors are trained at tertiary institutions such as the University of Botswana while some under the pastoral system. Their qualifications range from certificate to doctoral degrees. However, another form of pre-marital counselling called “go laya” in Setswana is still practiced. This form of counselling is offered to the bride and groom on the wedding day. This form of counselling pertains to how they should treat one another and the roles expected of each and it is offered by relatives and individuals who are married (O. S. Lopang, personal communication, March 15, 2016).Marriages in Botswana were regarded as problematic especially that majority of marriages take a few years the couple being married and finally ending in divorce. Whilst being regarded as problematic, majority of participants felt that the newlyweds of the 21st century lack commitment especially in marriage. Secondly, it was found that individuals enter into marriage for the wrong reasons such as financial gain and material possession. Klaus (2009) shares the same sentiments that fair marriages are very impossible as the other partner does not marry for intimacy but for monetary gain. Whilst participants indicated that marriages are a problem, communication, consultation, compromise and seeking pre-marital counselling were found to enhance marriage stability.”

“There are couples who don’t bother with premarital counselling who feel that they don’t need it while some do go for it just to say they did it. I think a lot of couples don’t take premarital counselling seriously they do it just to tick the boxes –just for show. Premarital counselling is a great way for people to do their homework about the most important decision they are ever going to make so that they can go into it armed with skills that are going to be very helpful. Divorce and conflict between couples are responsible for many psycho-social malfunctioning of the families. Therefore, premarital counseling for couples and trainings address many of these risk factors. It is an investment of time, money, and energy. It can contribute to positive couple satisfaction in a relatively short time frame, which also tracks to a rewarding result: intact, happy marriages several years later. Many couples choose to take that time together up front and ensure they do all they can to get it right. I think it’s crucial that couples go for counselling before they tell their parents of their decision to wed; it somehow relieves them of the pressures that come from parents and marriage itself. It however is important to note that premarital counselling in churches and with licensed therapists is slightly different, where the therapists might be bold the church tends to downplay the realities that couples are to face in marriage.”

Albert Gaopele of Olorato Marriage Counselling says “Couples who attend premarital counseling have the opportunity to discuss issues that most couples argue about and most often lead to divorce or separation. Marriage counselling can help you address hot issues before they arise and assist you in discovering what the other person believes about the issue so that you may come to an agreement before you walk down the aisle. Oftentimes, it helps having someone to talk to that has already been through the issues you will be facing. A great marriage counsellor that has been married can provide you with experience that can only come from being married and living with another person. It also helps to talk to someone who may have felt some of the same feelings about family and relationships. One of the most important aspects of any marriage is effective communication. When a couple stops caring and stops talking to one another, the marriage will eventually fall apart. Counselling can help you learn how to be a good listener, so you know what the other person wants and needs. When you live with someone day after day, it’s easy to take each other for granted, but by keeping an open line of communication and expressing love, you build a relationship that can withstand the test of time.”

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Sunday Standard June 28 – 4 July

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of June 28 - 4 July, 2020.