We are talking all things marriage, as couples—one who have been married for over 60 years and the other 3—talk candidly. Dr. Karen Sherman, a counselor with over 20 years of experience concludes with some much needed guidance.
“MARRIAGE IS A GIFT FROM GOD.”
On a Sunday afternoon Wezero Kelmourk prepares lunch, fish with a side of vegetables, a typical meal for a not so typical couple. In a country where half of the marriages end up in divorce, the union of Ato Shiferaw and Wezero Kelmourk remains rock-solid. Plenty of things have changed since they wed. One is reminded of this change as Wezero Kelmourk speaks of their wedding day. She explains that there was no wedding gown available during that time in Ethiopia and her groom had to travel to a country not far from Yemen to acquire this necessity. Sixty-Five years and 10 children, 20 grand children and 7 great grand children later, their matrimony holds strong. In their home, Ato Shiferaw led me to a prayer room where religious, life-size portraits are hung. It is clear that their faith plays a major instrument in their marriage. “Marriage is a gift from God,” said Ato Shiferaw. He spoke of the biblical story Marriage of Cana when Jesus turned water into wine. “We married legally in a church. We live well, we are very happy and we are one,” he added.
“MARRIAGE IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE TWO IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN ONE.”
High school sweethearts Ehete Gedu and Awed Balye have been married for 3 years. Both are very passionate about their relationship. They first met in elementary school and after some talking to; Gedu finally came around and decided to give Balye a chance. Since doing so, she has become elated. “Marriage is important because two is always better than one,” Gedu said. Gedu, who lives in the moment, speaks of her husband with a smile in her eyes. “Awed makes me feel comfortable and protected,” she said. Her advice to anyone thinking about taking that big step is to not rush. “Think about it before you marry that person,” she said. She stressed the importance of communication in a marriage adding that during moments of heated tension, couples should solve their problems on their own. When asked on her views on marriage counselors, “I don’t want a third person in my life,” she answered.
There are many people who feel as strongly about marriage counselors as Gedu feels. Our community in particular views counseling of any type as unnecessary and with the cost—an added burden. This is not the case. Marriage counselors are educated and trained professionals who can guide you through your engagement and restore a marriage that is on the verge of slipping.
IN HER OWN WORDS: MARRIAGE AND FAMILY COUNSELOR,
DR. SHERMAN WEIGHS IN.
Dr. Karen Sherman, author of Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, Make It Last, is a Family and Marriage Counselor with over 20 years of private practice and as she explains, has been a relationship specialist since the tender age of 8. She credits counseling as coming naturally to her as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home where she was often thrown into family disputes. Growing up in a dysfunctional home and facing some rocky times in her marriage makes Dr. Sherman an expert who “talks from experience.”
Dr. Sherman says that there is nothing wrong in seeing a therapist, and not because she is one. “A lot of the time you repeat what you’re parents were doing, which was wrong, as evident of the divorce rate.” So what adds to the high divorce rate? “People had wrong expectations of a marriage, in the United States we get swayed easily with songs, music, and books,” she said. We aim for what we see and hear in the media and when that doesn’t happen we get disappointed.
When Dr. Sherman studied psychology, her finding was that couples did not have the how to skills in order to work with each other “doing therapy doesn’t always work.” This is where the educational model, Art of Choice comes in. “A lot of people are living their life on automatic pilot because their have been wounds in their past,” she explains. As individuals who have been hurt we “act frozen.” These unresolved issues from the past are unknowingly brought into the marriage, “couples think they are fighting with their spouse but they are not.” Art of Choice explains why this happens.
During a relationship, why is it that so often we tend to make choices without fully thinking about them? This is “habitual,” explains Dr. Sherman. “We go with what feels comfortable and so many people will go with an option that’s not in their best interest.”
So what are the first steps in achieving a healthy and happy marriage? “Having realistic expectations,” explains Dr. Sherman. In order to achieve happiness within a family, “a couple has to respect one another and put the relationship as a priority.” Dr. Sherman’s advice to newlyweds is, “It is best to realize that in order for the relationship to work, they (newlyweds) will have to work the relationship.”
According to Dr. Sherman, a marriage that is on the brinks can be brought back. She emphasized that couples who are experiencing problems should try new things. “Initially, it may seem that the grass is greener somewhere else but it will have the same problems so you might as well work on your marriage.”
Dr. Karen Sherman has offices in Long Island and in Queens. If you have any questions or comments, she can be reached at www.drkarensherman.com.