The government in Nigeria’s largest city recently implemented a mandatory marriage counseling program for residents. The Lagos government believes counseling is necessary to address problems like marital violence, child marriage, and high divorce rates. But is mandatory counseling a wise idea?
Government-mandated marriage counseling seems like anathema to Western nations. After all, marriage is a private relationship between two people. Still, we Westerners acquiesce to the idea of marriage licenses. Many of us who are married attended some sort of civil or religious counseling before walking down the aisle.
It is hard to argue against counseling as a valuable tool to prepare couples for marriage. And of course, marriage counseling remains a valuable tool throughout the course of a couple’s relationship. But that does not necessarily mean it should be mandated by government.
Tackling Serious Problems in Lagos
City officials were clear to point out that their decision to mandate marriage counseling is intended to tackle some serious problems. At the top of the list is marital violence. No doubt this is a problem that cannot be ignored. Marital violence is never acceptable anywhere.
Another big problem in Lagos is child marriage. Parents give their children – usually girls – away for marriage at a very young age. They do so because it benefits them in some way, shape, or form. But the children are incapable of making a rational decision to marry. They are incapable of contributing what it takes to make a marriage successful.
Will mandatory counseling solve these two problems? City officials seem to think it will. Time will ultimately tell. In the short-term, it would be interesting to know what the city’s marriage counseling curriculum offers to combat marital violence and child marriage.
Addressing High Divorce Rates
Premarital counseling as a means of reducing the chances of divorce is included in the mandatory curriculum. It is an idea that has been practiced around the world for generations. Its main goal is to help couples understand the realities of marriage so that they don’t go into it with unrealistic expectations.
Counseling before marriage can help. However, marriage counseling after a couple ties the knot is equally important. No matter how much a couple prepares for marriage, nothing experienced in a counseling office can truly prepare them for reality.
Not Just for Troubled Couples
Couples therapy is something they offer at Westchester County, NY’s Relationships & More. They are quick to point out that couple’s therapy isn’t just for troubled couples who already recognize there is something wrong with their relationships. It is useful even for those whose relationships are strong.
A good couple’s therapy program helps couples understand why they think and feel the way they do. It helps them learn to identify potential problems before these become major catastrophes. Couple’s therapy teaches them how to communicate, how to show respect, how to demonstrate appreciation, and more.
Government’s Role Is Questionable
Few would argue against the benefits of premarital and marriage counseling. Few would argue against couples voluntarily seeking out counseling on their own. But the question in Lagos is one of the government’s role in all of it.
Should the government be forcing citizens to attend marriage counseling prior to their nuptials? How about a year or two into their marriage? And if so, who gets to decide what counseling looks like?
Marriage relationships are the most personal of all relationships. Counseling engaged and already married couples can be a very good thing. But getting government involved may not be the best idea. Bureaucrats deciding what makes a healthy marriage doesn’t instill confidence in the rest of us.