Why marriages break down (Part 1 of 3)

Salvador Minuchin, MD, a brilliant Argentinian psychiatrist and the creator of Structural Family Therapy (Minuchin, S. (1974) Families and Family Therapy, Harvard University Press), offers us a framework for understanding families as coherent and dynamic systems which evolve and change over time.  As these changes occur, naturally and organically, the system often undergoes stress which requires the members of the system to adapt and change expectations and behavior in order to maintain balance within the system.  When the requisite adaptation does not occur the system becomes unbalanced and, to one degree or another, dysfunctional.  Phew!new parents, baby, relationships

John meets Mary for the first time.  The encounter is pleasant.  There is often a “click,” chemistry…  pleasure enough to make a second meeting desirable.  In time they develop a more solid attraction.  Friendship grows and they evolve into an exclusive, romantic and intimate pair.  They become a couple.  They become a system.

Soon, they recognize the strength of their love and the mutuality of their goals and decide to make a commitment for life and they become engaged.

Life is good!  They are deeply involved with and interested in one another.  They are untouchable.  Each is the center of the other’s universe.  They have fun.  They plan.  They dance and kiss and make love (with someone they love.)  They are truly and deeply engaged.  They are still a system.

They marry.  Their identities shift.  They are still John and Mary but now, also, Husband and Wife.  Life is good!

They set up housekeeping, buy what they need to buy, and begin their lives as a “Married Couple.”

They work out rules:  division of labor, meshing of schedules, reworking of social networks and activities, how money is handled, how their respective families will interface, etc.  They are growing, communicating and enjoying the new journey, glad to have made the decision to marry for life.  Life is still good!

And now for the next big shift in the system: Mary gets pregnant, has a complicated pregnancy and, finally after nine anxiety-ridden months, delivers the fabulous 7 lb 10 oz, 22” Johnny Jr., who they elect to call Jack.  A joyous event!

But not so fast!

This is when the system shifts dramatically.  New, unexpected challenges are imposed upon the couple.  Important work must begin to maintain health and balance in the developing family system.

If it does not occur, this… out of a backdrop of celebration and joy…  is where the ultimate breakdown of a happy, hopeful marriage begins.

The April Blog installment will explain the Why and How of marital breakdown.  Why it happens and How it can be managed.

On February 1, 2015, posted in: mental health, relationships by
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