- Assess their faith (Iman).
It’s a good idea to assess the religious standing of the spouses individually and together. This is not just about praying Salah or fasting in the month of Ramadan. It will be about deeper matters, such as their worldview, how they talk about their Deen and what they disagree about.
- Understand the culture they are hailing from.
This can range from westernized and liberal to traditional or orthodox. For example, if for one spouse, drinking and mixing with the opposite gender could be very normal, then for the other – completely unacceptable.
- Know the couple’s family influence over their decisions.
Muslims are still viewed as tight knit families in comparison with other societies. This also means that parents continue to exercise their authority and control over their children’s married life and resulting decisions. Counsellors can empathize with concerned parents but are not obligated to disclose counselling details, as they are an Amanah, unless decided with the client otherwise for the betterment of the situation.
- Consult Islamic scholars for matters of Fiqh (Shariah law).
The couple may bring up some issues that need to be resolved in the light of the Islamic Shariah. Counsellors would not have any competence or knowledge of such subjects. Hence, it is best to approach a scholar for a verdict or solution.
- Take ample time to get to the root of the conflict.
In a conflicting relationship, the most challenging part is its root cause analysis. Often, whatever gets displayed apparently is very different from the concealed reality. Do not rush the case and do not hasten to give an obvious verdict, where you feel for the suffering party and have identified your culprit.
- Bring issues out in the open.
It is never advisable to brush anything under the carpet. Warring couples need to learn about each other’s pain and feelings. Most of the time, it comes as a shock to the partner to know what little things upset their better halves. For mending the relationship, the communication gap needs to be bridged.
- Pay attention to the language.
Sometimes certain phrases are actually an expression of extreme unhappiness or displeasure. For example, someone may say: “I would rather die than be in this relationship.” This may indicate that the person has reached his/ her nerve’s end and should not be taken in the literal sense.
- Understand the power dynamics.
In families with kids and especially where a power struggle is in process between the husband and the wife, their children may not be comfortable in joint counselling sessions. Individual sessions would work better initially, so that no one turns defensive or offensive.
- Let the couple assume ownership.
Most vitally, the conflicting partners need to own their differences. Involve them in finding solutions and sorting out their problems. After all, you are not a wizard with a magic wand. If each partner contributes, chances are that they will be willing to apply changes and continue forward.
- Suggest a spiritual retreat of Tahajjud.
No matter how wrong something goes in life and no matter who helps to resolve it, nothing can be fixed without the Will of Allah (swt). It is He, Who plants mercy and love between hearts. And it is He, Who forgives and embraces repenting individuals, who are prepared to reform. Tahajjud is an arrow that never misses its target. Suggest it as a trustworthy therapy and a spiritual detoxification dose.