Sikh Marriage Counseling

weddings_THUMB.jpgSince I exist in the age bracket where many of my friends are married or getting married, I am aptly aware of the concerns couples have about adjusting to one another after marriage. For example, how will living habits change? How will your husband/wife fit into your family? It’s a pretty daunting concept – especially for individuals who wait to get married later on in life, after years of education and commitment to careers, and along with this, years of being single. I’ve known many couples over the years who have had a difficult time adjusting to being part of a union. How can we blame them? Our community offers very little as far as pre-marital counseling for Sikh couples. In fact, a quick google search for “Sikh Marriage Counseling” doesn’t bring up anything pertinent.

For many, it is also very important to know that your partner is on a similar spiritual path. This may be one of the most important elements to think about prior to marriage – as it impacts your day to day living and the way you may raise your children in the future. Some religions actually require couples to go through marriage counseling prior to marriage. We don’t seem to have this in our community but it’s not a bad idea. How many couples do you know who have gone to the Giani at their local gurdwara to elicit marriage advice? If any, i’m sure the number is small. Nevertheless, i feel this is integral to the success of marriage as there are certain questions which should be discussed before marriage.

What I did come across, however, are the following two tools. First, the Sikh Research Institute organizes the Grihast Retreat which,

is a 2-day event for young couples to strengthen marriage and family relationships by offering deeper communication between wife and husband. Grihast incorporates diverse themes that are at the foundation of a married life. New perspectives provide insights on building meaningful relationships while workshops and discussions offera glimpse of the Gur?s vision and ideals on marriage.

The retreat is an opportunity for young Sikh couples to work on marriage enhancement within a reflective environment. Participants learn about conflict resolution and “balancing pre-marriage expectations with the reality of shared living.” These issues are discussed within the framework of Sikhi and the Guru Granth Sahib.

Secondly, over the past few months, SikhNet has released a number of videos focusing on relationships. Topics such as the Uniqueness of Sikh Marriage, Chauvinism and Khalsa, Relationship Conflicts and Husband and Wife Roles are discussed in short, educational videos.

While these tools are few and far between – it’s definitely a start. I’d be curious to hear from readers who have either attended the Grihast Retreat or viewed the Relationship Series on SikhNet. Did these tools help? What other types of support do Sikh couples need prior to committing to marriage?

Of note: the next Grihast Retreat will be held August 15th and 16th, 2009 in New Jersey.


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36 Responses to “Sikh Marriage Counseling”

  1. Hazur says:

    Great issue to talk about. I recently got married and my wife and I have a good relationship with our local giani ji. He advised us on a few things – I guess you could call it 'pre-marriage counselling'. We feel lucky to have had that opportunity. We feel we will work harder at our marriage.

  2. Hazur says:

    Great issue to talk about. I recently got married and my wife and I have a good relationship with our local giani ji. He advised us on a few things – I guess you could call it ‘pre-marriage counselling’. We feel lucky to have had that opportunity. We feel we will work harder at our marriage.

  3. Mewa Singh says:

    Wow that picture looks dorky. Geez Harpreet….

    Now how would we institutionalize such counseling or at least make it much more available?

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Wow that picture looks dorky. Geez Harpreet….

    Now how would we institutionalize such counseling or at least make it much more available?

  5. baingandabhartha says:

    I would want some objective evidence first that such counseling does anything postive for marriages-rates of divorce, happiness in the marriage so on-not based on anecdotal evidence.

    In Punjab, arranged marriages still are the majority of the unions-counseling there consists of financial and educational evaluation of the prospective parties-highly doubt that it would work. In the west it may help but like I said..evidence.

    Finally, if you need counseling before getting married-one should rethink the whole thing-may not me mature enough to get married if somebody's gotta tell you what to expect how to behave in a marriage-talk to your prospective partner as an equal, put everything on the table.

    Just my two cents.

  6. baingandabhartha says:

    I would want some objective evidence first that such counseling does anything postive for marriages-rates of divorce, happiness in the marriage so on-not based on anecdotal evidence.
    In Punjab, arranged marriages still are the majority of the unions-counseling there consists of financial and educational evaluation of the prospective parties-highly doubt that it would work. In the west it may help but like I said..evidence.

    Finally, if you need counseling before getting married-one should rethink the whole thing-may not me mature enough to get married if somebody’s gotta tell you what to expect how to behave in a marriage-talk to your prospective partner as an equal, put everything on the table.
    Just my two cents.

  7. Machismo says:

    This is awesome news. What a great resource to provide to the community!

    Every marriage/relationship/family has issues. Conflict resolution is a skill that you have to learn, not a hereditary trait that gets passed to you through DNA. If you're offered the opportunity to learn the skills you need to deal with issues in productive and constructive ways, why would you decline? No really, why?

    Pre-marital and marriage counseling courses can change your life, whether you are married or not.

    Most Marriage Education courses (Connections, PREP, How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk/Jerkette, Family Wellness, etc.) focus on communication and conflict resolution skills. There is a national movement focused on creating greater access to Marriage Education to individuals, couples and families, for more information, you can go to the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center's website at http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org or for direct access to relationship skills resources you can go to http://www.TwoOfUs.org (some of us (you) could use the "dos and donts" of dating guide, thats all I'm saying).

  8. Sundari says:

    Hazur, How did your counseling help you work harder at your marriage?

  9. Sundari says:

    @Mewa – I quite like the picture. I'm not sure what the best structure would be to institutionalize this concept. If we look at Christian and Jewish communities – I think this happens through the Church or Synagogue. Would this be a reality at our Gurdwaras? I'm not sure and i'm also not convinced that all Giani Ji's would be able to provide the level of counseling that would be required to facilitate such discussions. Do we have marriage therapists in our community? Individuals who receive training and can provide it in a culturally relevant way.

    @baingandabhartha – marriage counseling in and of itself may not be beneficial, however, there is some evidence that premarital counseling does reduce divorce rates. An article in the Journal of Family Psychology says couples who received premarital education had a 31% lower chance of divorce. We don't have evidence of how it would help unions in the Punjabi Sikh community. However, i believe that arranged or not-arranged, unions in our communities could benefit from this dialogue prior to the marriage. I disagree with your point that if you need premarital counseling, that you're not mature enough to get married. Counseling can be beneficial at any stage of a person's life.

  10. Machismo says:

    This is awesome news. What a great resource to provide to the community!

    Every marriage/relationship/family has issues. Conflict resolution is a skill that you have to learn, not a hereditary trait that gets passed to you through DNA. If you’re offered the opportunity to learn the skills you need to deal with issues in productive and constructive ways, why would you decline? No really, why?

    Pre-marital and marriage counseling courses can change your life, whether you are married or not.

    Most Marriage Education courses (Connections, PREP, How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk/Jerkette, Family Wellness, etc.) focus on communication and conflict resolution skills. There is a national movement focused on creating greater access to Marriage Education to individuals, couples and families, for more information, you can go to the National Healthy Marriage Resource Center’s website at http://www.healthymarriageinfo.org or for direct access to relationship skills resources you can go to http://www.TwoOfUs.org (some of us (you) could use the “dos and donts” of dating guide, thats all I’m saying).

  11. Sundari says:

    Hazur, How did your counseling help you work harder at your marriage?

  12. Sundari says:

    @Mewa – I quite like the picture. I’m not sure what the best structure would be to institutionalize this concept. If we look at Christian and Jewish communities – I think this happens through the Church or Synagogue. Would this be a reality at our Gurdwaras? I’m not sure and i’m also not convinced that all Giani Ji’s would be able to provide the level of counseling that would be required to facilitate such discussions. Do we have marriage therapists in our community? Individuals who receive training and can provide it in a culturally relevant way.

    @baingandabhartha – marriage counseling in and of itself may not be beneficial, however, there is some evidence that premarital counseling does reduce divorce rates. An article in the Journal of Family Psychology says couples who received premarital education had a 31% lower chance of divorce. We don’t have evidence of how it would help unions in the Punjabi Sikh community. However, i believe that arranged or not-arranged, unions in our communities could benefit from this dialogue prior to the marriage. I disagree with your point that if you need premarital counseling, that you’re not mature enough to get married. Counseling can be beneficial at any stage of a person’s life.

  13. Sundari says:

    Machismo — Thanks for your thoughts and for those links. They are very informative. I agree that conflict resolution is a skill that is just as important as financial and family planning. I seems to be difficult for individuals in our community to admit that they have conflicts and perhaps that is why many do not seek out this type of education/counseling.

  14. Sundari says:

    Machismo — Thanks for your thoughts and for those links. They are very informative. I agree that conflict resolution is a skill that is just as important as financial and family planning. I seems to be difficult for individuals in our community to admit that they have conflicts and perhaps that is why many do not seek out this type of education/counseling.

  15. Derek Miller says:

    My name is Derek Miller i was born in 1963 , and am Jamican , i married sikh girl from Ilford Red bridge East London , and i regret it [No name-calling, please read our policy – Admin]

  16. Derek Miller says:

    My name is Derek Miller i was born in 1963 , and am Jamican , i married sikh girl from Ilford Red bridge East London , and i regret it [No name-calling, please read our policy – Admin]

  17. Kiran Kaur says:

    Sundari & other bloggers,

    In relation to my ouburst re: marriage on a different blog(reviewing 'A Boy with a Topknot'), all I wish to say is that: Indian mother in law and sister in laws (ie. husband's sister) need to LET GO of their son/brother and ACCEPT that the no 1 woman in your sons life is his wife ('that outsider'). And to GET A LIFE, after all aren't you (MIL and SIL)the number 1 woman in your husbands life. My marriage (long dead) and my life were destroyed by the MIL and SILs. The ex was to blame too because he should have supported me. However, who cares now? Its my family that spent 25K+ on a wedding, which in less than 2 years collapsed. My family and I got nothing from him. Great deal! I wasn't after his money, but there's no 'punishment' for him or his family. No pre-marriage counselling, counselling during marriage is going to work with a family like them, unless the husband defends his wife. Thats my twopence worth, I hope him and his family get the most awful 'replacement'. Gorehs have got it right – a marriage is between two people, not the whole family. (MIL = mother in law, SIL = sister in law).

  18. Kiran Kaur says:

    Sundari & other bloggers,

    In relation to my ouburst re: marriage on a different blog(reviewing ‘A Boy with a Topknot’), all I wish to say is that: Indian mother in law and sister in laws (ie. husband’s sister) need to LET GO of their son/brother and ACCEPT that the no 1 woman in your sons life is his wife (‘that outsider’). And to GET A LIFE, after all aren’t you (MIL and SIL)the number 1 woman in your husbands life. My marriage (long dead) and my life were destroyed by the MIL and SILs. The ex was to blame too because he should have supported me. However, who cares now? Its my family that spent 25K+ on a wedding, which in less than 2 years collapsed. My family and I got nothing from him. Great deal! I wasn’t after his money, but there’s no ‘punishment’ for him or his family. No pre-marriage counselling, counselling during marriage is going to work with a family like them, unless the husband defends his wife. Thats my twopence worth, I hope him and his family get the most awful ‘replacement’. Gorehs have got it right – a marriage is between two people, not the whole family. (MIL = mother in law, SIL = sister in law).

  19. Sundari says:

    Kiran, I definitely think you have some valid points. In our community – the concept of marrying your husband/wife's family is ingrained in our traditions. However, i hardly think it is easy and it definitely isn't something we dialogue about openly. Until we have these conversations and are open to hearing what the issues are – we won't be able to move forward. It isn't just a coincidence that more and more women are now insisting that after marriage they don't immediately move in with their husband's family. We have all heard the difficulties young brides undergo adjusting to (not only their husband, but also) their husband's family. In addition, there isn't much of a support system to discuss these concerns. Young women often don't want to burden their own parents with these struggles and instead deal with it in silence. I hardly think that's healthy.

  20. Sundari says:

    Kiran, I definitely think you have some valid points. In our community – the concept of marrying your husband/wife’s family is ingrained in our traditions. However, i hardly think it is easy and it definitely isn’t something we dialogue about openly. Until we have these conversations and are open to hearing what the issues are – we won’t be able to move forward. It isn’t just a coincidence that more and more women are now insisting that after marriage they don’t immediately move in with their husband’s family. We have all heard the difficulties young brides undergo adjusting to (not only their husband, but also) their husband’s family. In addition, there isn’t much of a support system to discuss these concerns. Young women often don’t want to burden their own parents with these struggles and instead deal with it in silence. I hardly think that’s healthy.

  21. shiningstar says:

    What do you do if a sikh female confides in you that her husband is gambling away their money but "it happens in all sikh families"?

  22. shiningstar says:

    What do you do if a sikh female confides in you that her husband is gambling away their money but "it happens in all sikh families"?

  23. SKaur says:

    Shiningstar,

    The male in question has a gambling problem, and this is certainly not a natural occurence in all Sikh families. You should encourage the female to speak with her husband about it, and if already done, she should bring in relatives/friends that would be able to help fight the addiction.

  24. SKaur says:

    Shiningstar,

    The male in question has a gambling problem, and this is certainly not a natural occurence in all Sikh families. You should encourage the female to speak with her husband about it, and if already done, she should bring in relatives/friends that would be able to help fight the addiction.

  25. Stella says:

    Part 2: Communication – Is communication between spouses important in India? Are spouses supposed to rely on each other and be one another's best friends? My husband was hit by a motorcycle and I didn't even find out about it until two days after he was released from the hospital! This doesn't seem right, but I want to understand if it's just a disconnect between cultural expectations and norms. When we are together (I've been twice to India since he was deported), we get along great and he is very attentive, but when I'm back in America, I feel like an afterthought.

  26. Stella says:

    Part 1: Communication- I am an American married to a Sikh man. He was deported last Feb and is now in Punjab. He is the oldest son in a large family with married sisters with children and his younger brother is in Australia. As a result, he is unavailable to me most of the time due to his running around Punjab doing things for family and friends since he has time and no job. He will give me a missed call and I'll call him right back but then he won't have time to talk. I rarely get to talk to him on the phone at all and when I do, he says he will call back but usually doesn't. I need to understand – is it a cultural thing or just him? The phone is the only way we can communicate while we are apart since the internet is so slow where he lives. When I do respond to his rare emails he doesn't read my replies for weeks.

  27. Stella says:

    Part 2: Communication – Is communication between spouses important in India? Are spouses supposed to rely on each other and be one another's best friends? My husband was hit by a motorcycle and I didn't even find out about it until two days after he was released from the hospital! This doesn't seem right, but I want to understand if it's just a disconnect between cultural expectations and norms. When we are together (I've been twice to India since he was deported), we get along great and he is very attentive, but when I'm back in America, I feel like an afterthought.

  28. Stella says:

    Part 1: Communication- I am an American married to a Sikh man. He was deported last Feb and is now in Punjab. He is the oldest son in a large family with married sisters with children and his younger brother is in Australia. As a result, he is unavailable to me most of the time due to his running around Punjab doing things for family and friends since he has time and no job. He will give me a missed call and I'll call him right back but then he won't have time to talk. I rarely get to talk to him on the phone at all and when I do, he says he will call back but usually doesn't. I need to understand – is it a cultural thing or just him? The phone is the only way we can communicate while we are apart since the internet is so slow where he lives. When I do respond to his rare emails he doesn't read my replies for weeks.

  29. Sundari says:

    Stella, i'm not sure that this type of lack of communication is a cultural thing. I think communication between a couple should exist regardless of your culture/community. From the couples i know, communication plays a large role in their relationship.

  30. Sundari says:

    Stella, i'm not sure that this type of lack of communication is a cultural thing. I think communication between a couple should exist regardless of your culture/community. From the couples i know, communication plays a large role in their relationship.

  31. Tanya says:

    I live in USA a country where Divorce cases seems to be the order of the day,i was married to my husband Lawson for 18 years and we were living happily together with our 3 kids and all of a sudden their came this sad moment for the first time in my life i curt my husband having an affair with a lady outside our marriage before this time i have already started noticing strange behavior like he used to spend some time with us, comes home early after work but since he started having an affair with this lady all his love for his wife gone and he now treats me badly and will not always make me happy.I had to keep on moving with my life never knowing that our marriage was now leading to divorce which i can not take because i love Lawson my husband so much and i can't afford to loose him to this strange Lady,i had to seek a friends advice on how i could resolve my marriage problem and make the divorce case not to take place and my husband live this Lady and come back to me again having heard my story my friend decided to help me at all cost she then referred me to A spell caster named Priest Ajigar, my friend also told me that Priest Ajigar have helped so many people that were going through divorce, and also finding possible ways to amend their broken relationship. To cut my story short i contacted Priest Ajigar and in just four days after the spell was done my husband left the other lady and withdrew the divorce case all till now my husband is with me and he now treats me well and we are living happily together again all appreciation goes to Priest Ajigar i never could have done this my self, so to whom it may concern if you are finding difficulty in your relationship or having problems in your marriage just contact Priest Ajigar he is Powerful and his spell works perfectly,i am somebody who never believed or heard about spell but i gave it a try with Priest Ajigar and today every thing is working well for me and if you need his help his email is ([email protected])

  32. Landa says:

    My husnand wants a divorce just 5 weeks into marriage which is crazy as we should be getting to know each other I forgave him for sleeping with somebody else and getting her pregnant however he didn't like the fact I had Facebook so kicked me out I had NO support from MIL or SILS I felt ashamed alone depressed worse thing is its wedding season n it's shamefull going gudawara on my own to my families weddings there all asking me he married life is n I don't know what to do I wana give my marriage a go n be a good strong Sikh wife but he's having none of it please advise as he's so stubborn and doesn't listen I suggested counselling or a holiday just the two of us but no

  33. ragland says:

    Nice post. Really appreciate you work. There are several marriage counselling going on. It's because of ego between the couples

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