Chapter 17 Actively Seeking Marital Growth and Fulfillment Chapter Outline • “And They Lived Happily Ever After” • Marriage Improvement Programs • Marriage with Purpose: Effective Management • In the Future, the Family Will Remain and Diversify Roadblocks to Healthy Marriages • The myth of naturalism is the idea that marriage will take care of itself if we select the right partner. • Privatism is the attitude that marital problems are private and not to be shared. • Cynicism treats marriage as a joke or assumes that all marriages are unhealthy. To improve their marriage a couple must work on: 1. Themselves as individuals 2. Their relationship 3. The environment Marriage Improvement Techniques 1. School courses on marriage and the family 2. Encounter groups 3. Family enrichment weekends 4. Women’s and men’s consciousness- raising groups 5. Married couples’ communication workshops. Marriage Improvement Techniques 6. Massage and bodily awareness training 7. Psychodrama 8. Sensitivity training 9. Sex therapy and sexuality workshops 10. Marriage counseling and family service organizations Techniques for All Couples 1. Setting aside scheduled times each week to really talk to each other, share, and communicate. 2. Perhaps during some of these times, the reading together books that discuss relationships, or other books of mutual interest. Techniques for All Couples 3. Dating often—doing things that are mutually enjoyable, things that are romantic, things that bring back happy memories. 4. Focusing on “us” as much, if not more, than on “me.” Possible Negative Effects of Programs 1. The perceived benefits may be illusory, or at best, temporary. 2. The emphasis on the relationship may tend to deny individual differences. Negative Effects of Treatment 3. There may be divisive influences on the couple’s relationship with other family members. 4. The communicative techniques taught may rigidify the couple’s communication patterns, and failure to practice the techniques may lead to guilt or resentment. Choosing Marriage Enrichment Activities 1. Choose the activity together and participate together if possible. 2. If only one mate can participate, do so with the consent of the other, and bring the other into the activity as much as possible by sharing your experiences. Choosing Marriage Enrichment Activities 3. In general, avoid the one-time weekend group; it is often too intense, and no follow-up is available, if needed. 4. Never jump into a group experience on impulse. Give it a lot of thought, understanding that experiences leading to growth may be painful. Choosing Marriage Enrichment Activities 5. Do not participate in groups where the people are friends and associates if the group’s goal is total openness and emotional expression. 6. Don’t remain with a group that insists that everybody be a certain type of person, or insists that all must participate in every activity. Choosing Marriage Enrichment Activities 7. Participate in groups that have a formal connection with a local professional on whom you can check. 8. A group of six to 16 members is optimum size. Too small a group may result in scapegoating; too large a group cannot operate effectively. Self-awareness Programs • Self-awareness enrichment programs offer sensitivity-training exercises to help focus on internal sensory, cognitive, and emotional processes. • Goals include achieving a realistic self- picture, openness to one’s feelings, minimal defensiveness, and eliminating some emotional hang-ups. Partner Awareness Programs • Partner awareness involves knowing what one’s partner is experiencing in terms of his/her own self-awareness. • How does this behavior affect one’s partner? How can one best communicate with his/her partner? What does the partner think or feel about this? • Answering such questions accurately is the goal of partner-awareness training. Relationship Awareness Programs • Relationship awareness shifts the focus from the behavior of one individual to the interactional patterns of the couple, or the entire family. • Every relationship has rules, often outside of direct awareness, that create and maintain meaning and order. • People like to conceptualize rules in terms of who can do what, where, when, how, and for what length of time. Topical Awareness Programs • Topical awareness encompasses references to events, objects, ideas, places, and people—topics that constitute most of everyday conversation. • By increasing topical awareness, the couple can focus on their interests and find where they differ and where they coincide. Suggestions for the Family of the New Century 1. The workplace must be made “family friendly.” 2. Family life education must begin early and young people should be taught the art of healthy communication and family relationships. 3. The image of marriage and family conveyed in the popular culture and media needs to be improved. Quick Quiz 1. What is the goal of a relationship awareness program? a) To know what one’s partner is experiencing. b) To achieve a realistic self-picture. c) To study the interactional behavior of the couple or of the whole family. d) To share interests as a couple. Answer: c • The goal of a relationship awareness program is to study the interactional behavior of the couple or the whole family. 2. Which of the following are suggested strategies for all couples? a) Finding time to talk often b) Focusing on “us” rather than “me” c) Dating often d) All of these Answer: d • Finding time to talk often, focusing on “us” rather than “me,” and finding time often to go on dates are all suggested strategies for every couple. 3. The myth of naturalism is a) the idea that marriage is natural and will take care of itself, if we just select the right partner. b) a common attitude that marital problems are private and not to be shared. c) the idea that marriage is a joke or that all marriages are unhealthy. d) None of these. Answer: a • The myth of naturalism is the idea that marriage is natural and will take care of itself, if we just select the right partner.
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