Marriage is a vehicle through which people constantly try to satisfy an assortment of needs and influences. It is often regarded by neurotic people as a way of overcoming defects in their own development and handicaps in their current life situation. The marital partner is therefore cajoled, seduced, or terrorized to perform and is held responsible for any deficiency in projected assignments. This imposes an enormous burden on the healthier of the two spouses since the demands made are usually impossible to fulfill.
What to expect?
The habitual hostilities, anxieties, defenses and coping devices that have plagued the individual since childhood become transferred over to the most conveniently available recipient—the spouse. The expression of such improprieties is complicated by reactive guilt feelings, remorse, and attempts at reparation, which in turn invite attack from the injured spouse, perpetuating the continuing chain of indignation, anger, and counterattack. Marriage calls for intricate adjustments. It involves not only dealing with one’s personal difficulties but also the normal problems and the irrationalities of one’s partner.
How does it work?
Marital relationships are commonly sabotaged by the emotional defects of one or both partners. Where a marriage has deteriorated and the couple is motivated to work toward its betterment, there is a good chance that with proper treatment the relationship will improve. This does not mean that all marriages can be saved. In some cases the “chemical” combination of the union is irreconcilably explosive. Marital therapy techniques draw from multiple fields, including psychoanalysis, behavior therapy, family therapy, group therapy, marriage counseling, child therapy, and family casework. Although the objects are the mastery of neurotic suffering and alteration of the relationship between the couple, a hoped-for, and usually serendipitous objective is intrapsychic change, which surprisingly may come about in those with a readiness for such change and relief from the distracting cross-fire between the two spouses. Conceptual schemes for the actual conduct of marital therapy are not unified, but the most successful approaches stress the importance of communication toward effecting changes in the transactional system. Greene (1972) has pointed out that the great variations in marital patterns require flexibility in therapeutic techniques. He proposes a “six-C” classification of therapeutic modalities:
I. Supportive Therapy
a. Crisis counseling
a. Classic psychoanalytic psychotherapy
b. Collaborative therapy
c. Concurrent therapy
d. Conjoint marital therapy
e. Combined therapies
i. Simple therapy
ii. Conjoint family therapy
iii. Combined-collaborative therapy
iv. Marital group psychotherapy
In many cases progress is enhanced by couples working together in couple groups. As communication improves and relationship skills consolidate, intervals between sessions are increased. Couple groups may continue for a while without the presence of the therapist. Problems and relapses are anticipated and ways of managing them are discussed.
When is it used?
Because marital adjustment is one of the most difficult and stressful human challenges, it is little wonder that so many people get disturbed under its impact. Problems in marriage and difficulties with a spouse account for almost 50 percent of the reasons why people seek professional help.
Role of therapist:
The task of marital therapist is twofold. First, it endeavors to help the patient overcome disturbing symptomatic complaints. Second, it strives to keep a shaky marriage together where there is even a small chance of its success, strengthening the couple’s psychological defenses in the process, or, if the marriage cannot be saved, helping the partners separate with a minimum of conflict and bad feeling, particularly where children are involved.