Families undergo developmental change over time. They have different stressors at different times that reflect the developmental, contextual stage of the marital relationship and family. These stages affect and are affected by change in the self sense, the internal world and the relationship dyads, including the extended family and community. Each partner must give up some autonomy for the sake of the relationship. Each spouse must come to grips with the realities of needs not fully met and coming to grips with the realties of commitment to another and having to temper fantasies that have been fulfilled or unfulfilled. These crises are to be expected throughout a marital or family relationship as the marriage matures and stages of development are met and integrated. Relationship stress increases, leading to relational crisis; possible termination can occur if the partners do not successfully negotiate these stages.
For example, early marriages show more conflicts around issues regarding relative contribution of each partner, finances, power and control issues, first child, parenting and extended family. The first child brings up issues of competition for time and energy and loss of attention for the father. The first child then feels the loss of attention when the second child arrives.
The couple must begin to grapple with additional children, children in school and/or the spouse going back to work and the additional responsibilities and restraints of home, children and the influence of the extended family for one or both spouses. Spouses begin to assess the satisfaction and their internal world. Occupational issues and resentment over the disparity of income becomes more focused. The family becomes more visible to the community with lots of questions, comments and judgments about the kids. Parenting becomes an issue with involvement of the family of origin in the kids’ lives.
Marital relationships mature and change, bringing with them a greater depth of intimacy and vulnerability and tapestry of love for one another. Issues and challenges change with time. For example, they shift to changes in sexual desire, trust and infidelity issues, lack of intimacy and quality time with greater tendency toward lack of conflict resolution or negotiation.
When the first child becomes an adolescent, the parents are thrown precipitously back into their own adolescence, stimulating past issues in parents. The marital relationship is strained about how to learn to live with each other alone. There can be a lot of questioning from society, family of origin and adolescents themselves regarding this stage. Particularly when the first child says goodbye, leaving home, the parents begin to need to adjust to each other in a new way. And, again, when the last child leaves home, the marital and family relationship changes. Being “empty nesters” is particularly stressful and a time for the marriage to dissolve, especially if the relationship has been unsatisfactory or dead. Questions like “what will we do together?” and “who are we to each other?” come into focus.
Even in mature relationships, negotiating stages of life, like retirement, illness of a partner and death of a partner are significant times of stress, change and development.
2. Fear of failure
3. Fluctuation of feelings, confidence or fear about impending marriage
4. Autonomy—loss of identity
5. Age differences
6. Planning for children
7. Definition of self in terms of self/dyad
8. Rebellion against control or suspected control
9. Projection about imagined control
10. Other people in the relationship that are not known—projecting past patterns
11. Lack of communication or negative pictures from family of origin
12. Feelings of powerlessness—for both spouses
13. Seeing family of origin squelched into buying into traditional role
1. Issues are interrelated and hard to differentiate
2. Inadequacy about domestic skills produces more anxiety
3. Being a man involves the man helping in domestic roles
4. Confusion about sex roles
5. Woman having a greater income potential
6. Option to do things rather than expectations to do things
7. Interaction of issue areas
8. Space—new house
9. Living with other people as couple
10. Family of origin living with children
11. Not seeing each other due to work
12. Economic footholds in community—taking plunge into buying a place
13. Don’t plan to get married or committed
14. Burn out from job brought home. Type of communication needed. Willingness to learn new communication skills
15. Communication skills or effects from past primary relationships
16. Dealings with guilt and expectations of society with not having children; acquiescence of one partner to the other’s wishes
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