A critical assessment of the experiences and perceptions of the couple in an unconsummated marriage
Thesis (PhD (Social Work))—University of Stellenbosch, 2005.
It is generally accepted that the inability to consummate a marriage causes couples great distress, and can finally lead to divorce. Limited research has been done on the unconsummated marriage in South Africa. International studies have pointed out that the unconsummated marriage is a reality and a prevalent problem. While medical and therapeutic intervention is available, many people still suffer in silence and feel embarrassed about their condition. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the emotional and psycho-social experiences and perceptions of the couple in an unconsummated marriage. In order to achieve this goal, the objectives of the study were to explore the experiences of the couple in an unconsummated marriage in order to obtain the couple’s perception of their marriage; to present a literature overview on the subject of marriage within the context of the family life cycle; to describe the nature and causes of an unconsummated marriage; to critically describe approaches and models that may be used for the assessment of an unconsummated marriage; and to reflect on the implications of the emotional and psycho-social experiences and perceptions of the couple in an unconsummated marriage within a postmodern systemic framework. The purpose of the literature study was to provide a context for the research study. The researcher conducted an extensive literature review in order to establish and refine the research subject and to guide the empirical study. An exploratory study was executed and the purposive non-probability sampling method utilised. The sample for this study was obtained from Intercare Medical Centre, Johannesburg and The Square Medical Centre, Umhlanga between April 2004 and November 2004. Ten couples that have not consummated their marriage were included in the sample. An interview schedule with open-ended questions was used to conduct joint interviews with the couples. The empirical study enabled the researcher to draw certain conclusions. The main conclusion was that males and females in an unconsummated marriage experience and perceive control-related problems; negative feelings towards their own and their partner’s body; a fear of engaging in an intimate relationship and other phobias; a feeling of sin and moral dilemma; feelings of guilt and shame; the manifestation of depression and apathetic attitudes; personal distress and psychological problems; a feeling of serious regret and sadness; self-blame, self-destructive behaviour, mutilation and suicidal thoughts and episodes; and lastly, a lack of information on how to be sexually intimate with a partner. A number of recommendations flowed from the findings. The main recommendation was that healthcare professionals such as social workers should be better educated about the phenomenon of the unconsummated marriage in order to make a correct diagnosis and deliver high quality medical and therapeutic intervention.