Family Systems and Marriage Preparation Programs

It has been a recent development within the United States when the government has started making an effort to establish marriage programs that can help strengthen the foundation of marriages. They have done so by recently joining hands with the church and other faith-based organizations that run marriage preparation programs. One such organization is the Association of Couples for Marriage Enrichment (ACME) that primarily focuses on the provision of highly controlled, faith-based matrimonial preparation programs that aim to help the married couples in the sustenance of their marriages. One of the aspects that ACME and other religious groups focus on is the family systems that the couples must tackle and adjust to immediately after marriage. Hence, this aspect is primarily prepared by focusing on theoretical aspects of the family systems, cognitive behavioral therapy and lucid communication structures that assist is creating coping strategies and managing friction amongst different personalities (Wilmoth, 2005).

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The notion of family systems is an important aspect to focus on within the realm of marriage preparation as the family of an individual forms the foundation on which the entire character of the individual is built upon. Hence, marriage preparation programs built around family systems must also include the psychological breakdown of the families of the couples so that they can understand the nature of their families and understand the differences that exist between the two. Researchers normally refer to the work done on the family systems theory by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson as they primarily concentrated on the importance of the family of origin influence in marriage and how it should be included as an integral part in marriage preparation. They focused on how marriage was the balance between the past experiences of being in a family and bringing a new family structure within that and carrying forward the new experiences without causing friction with the family structure already established (as cited in Syphus, 2007).

The three aspects that the Mitchell and Anderson primarily focused on when tackling the family systems included: the role and dominance of sexuality, the financial management and the religious standings of the family of origins and how they differed with the in-laws. Anderson also further focused on how the couple must be prepared to create a balance between sticking with their original family and creating a common space between them and the in-laws but also at the same time manage to creation some isolation between the two so as to ensure that the increased interaction does not result in the creation of petty and unnecessary conflicts (as cited in Syphus, 2007).

One of the ways that Anderson and Fife have supported over the years, one that is used extensively in most marriage preparation programs, is the creation of a genogram by the couple. This genogram will primarily be formed to create a tree of important events in the family of origin’s existence and will be a reflection of some important meanings and memories (as cited in Syphus, 2007).

Some other researchers and marriage preparation programmers have focused on the Bowenian family systems whereby the couple comes together to cooperatively assess each family of origin’s structure and standards without a critical outlook. The Bowenian family system involves the following aspects: creation of a genogram for the maternal and paternal grandparents of the couple inclusive of all the important and meaningful events; details about the family culture; the family standard practices when it comes to aspects of money, religion, emotional and intellectual communication, the idea of power, liberty of expression/sexuality and individuality as well as the overall authoritative principles of the families (Silliman, 2003).

Furthermore, another important aspect in the family systems theory is to understand the individual’s independence from the family of origin and vice versa. One of the major issues in marriages is the co-dependence and extreme co-existence of families and the individual even after marriage. Hence, one of the key exercises that researchers suggest for the couple is to go through a comprehensive questionnaire that helps them determine their own and their partner’s independence from the family of origins. Furthermore, another important exercise when it comes to determining the influence of the family is the minimum and maximum input that the family of origin will be expected to have after the wedding. This will…


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