Ask The Therapist: “. I have been in a relationship for the last 8 years, but we still haven’t got married…”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“It’s been a year since I have been following your posts relating to mental health, but only now did I get the courage to share my mental condition. I have been in a relationship for the last 8 years. But when we come to the idea of getting married, new problems start. He is in Canada and he keeps on saying he’ll come and we’ll get nikkah-fied, but it isn’t happening. I don’t know…this is making me disappointed. I am turning 28. I don’t know how to manage myself. I need your help. Please suggest me something so that I can get out of this. When I see other couples happy, I feel bad. I feel ignited. All these lame excuses have made me ill. I don’t feel normal. I weep a lot. I am still waiting; nobody wants to be on the waiting list.”

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I’m really glad you found the courage to talk about what you’re experiencing. I know that it can be challenging to talk about certain things, and I just want to take a moment to acknowledge your courage, and to also say that your feelings are completely valid and normal. It is a frustrating situation, and it’s okay to cry and be upset! Coming towards what you’ve said in your message, it really sounds like you’re struggling with the level of uncertainty that’s currently present in the relationship and its current trajectory, and that can be really difficult to hold on to, especially if there is a lack of resolution. Let’s explore this a little further and see if we can help you find some level of clarity.

Uncertainty In Relationships

Anon, relationships, as we all know, come with their own set of struggles, and it’s only natural to have fights or conflicts with your partner. Yet, of course, you may reach a point where you run into an issue that could be extremely challenging, and might even feel like it’s adding a great deal of weight to your relationship. This is especially true when it’s laced with uncertainty and a lack of control. In your case, as you stated, you would like to take the next step and get married, yet your partner seems to be giving excuses, or doesn’t seem to be moving things forward. So, what can be done about this situation? What does this mean for you?

Reflect On Your Needs From The Relationship

It’s helpful to recognise what you would like from the relationship, and how that translates into your timeline. Some reflective questions to ask yourself would be:

  • How do I feel in this relationship? What does my future look like?
  • What are my reasons for wanting to get married now? (It’s often good to reflect on the reasons for marriage – is it because you would like to be close to your partner? Is it family pressure? These reasons will help you understand your headspace a bit better).
  • How are my needs being fulfilled in this relationship?
  • What would need to happen in order for this relationship to work?
  • What is a deal breaker for me?

Moving Towards Certainty And Clarity

I acknowledge that in the midst of a pandemic, planning anything, especially when you’re continents apart, can be quite difficult. We’re living in a time where uncertainty is at its peak, and plans are only concepts till a few days before their execution. That being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t work around it. A few things you can consider are:

  • Talk about how you both feel: speak to your partner about getting married. How does it make him feel, does he feel ready to take the next step? Have a discussion and see where you both stand.
  • Creating a timeline: it’s good to have an idea as to what your timeline looks like, and sometimes you might feel like things are too up in the air, so perhaps you can even talk about a deadline, or a time period where you both would like to take that step and get married, and how that fits into both of your life plans.
  • Couples Counselling: sometimes when things in a relationship become slightly more challenging than usual, it might help to speak to a counsellor. They would be able to help mediate when it comes to the issues that you’re experiencing. Contrary to popular belief, being in counselling doesn’t mean that your relationship is in critical stages, it just means that you might need some help to resolve some prominent issues that you can’t resolve on your own, and that’s completely okay. 
  • Take it one step at a time: there’s no definitive way to know how these things will play out, and as such, Anon, it helps to take things one step at a time, and knowing what’s in your control. It’s also important to acknowledge what you would like, and what your future looks like, and to know how and if your partner fits into that future. Take your time to reflect and see what it is that you want, while also communicating about your concerns as openly with your partner as you can.

Anon, I can really see that what you’re experiencing is really difficult, and it’s okay if you’re struggling. Let yourself cry, let out those feelings, and take care of yourself as best as you can right now – talk to your close friends and/or family, do something that you enjoy, connect with yourself through mindfulness, meditation or prayer, whatever works for you. Things will unfold and reveal themselves in time, and in the meantime, take it as it comes and be kind to yourself! You deserve it.

I hope everything works out for you. I wish you all the best on your journey. Best of luck and stay in your power!

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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