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Discussion

This activity should be considered in conjunction with the next three activities.  Collectively, they are at the heart of effective marriage participation.  This activity samples the elements from the next three activities, viewing the sample as representative of the individual’s marriage effective functioning.  If both the individual and his spouse rate the client high on all fifteen elements in this activity, she is clearly a marriage effective individual.  If not, attention to the next three activities will serve to clarify and expand on any problems or issues raised through consideration of this activity.

The next three activities – being friends, being partners, and being lovers – stand alone without discussion sections.  The experience and expertise of the consultant need to be a rich source of information, suggestions, and specific advise.  In addition, the bibliography at the end of the book is a rich source of additional materials.  At the same time, though, the consultant must be prepared to enlist the services of supplementary consultants who specialize in the specific interpersonal areas needing additional attention.  Simply keep in mind that the approach is educational, competence-based, and oriented to increasing skill and interpersonal effectiveness.

Focusing on the current activity, the individual’s being clear about what is important to him within the marriage should always be one of the first focal areas within the process involving the individual and the consultant.  In fact, this area should be discussed even if the individual and his spouse see no particular problem here.

The client should articulate the four or five things that are most important to him, the most important benefits of being married.  Similarly, clarity should be developed in terms of what is most important to his spouse.

Suppose that each spouse has five items on their “most important” list.  It may be that some items appear on both lists, although the consultant will find that almost always there are items on each list that are not on the other.  The result is ordinarily a list of seven or eight factors that the couple have on their “most important” list when the two lists are combined.  Here is the critical factor.  For the marriage to be successful, all of the elements on the combined list need to be understood and responded to in the marriage if the marriage is to be successful.  Both individuals need to derive from the marriage all that they see as really important.  At an importantly fundamental level, this is what they understand as a successful marriage: deriving those benefits that are viewed as most important.  As a consultation focus, the consultant will want to incorporate all of these elements into the marriage enhancement plan.

Being fun to be around may be one of the most important qualitative ingredients within an effective marriage.  In the last activity, attention was given to an orientation to quality versus effectiveness.  Being fun to be around, of course, gives emphasis to the quality side of the variable, the quality of life within the marriage.  A point for consultation focus relates to being fun in terms of its being a continuing and ever present factor in the marriage.  Of course, there are those difficult times, times when things are frustrating, times when things are more serious.  The perspective needs to be one that understands and takes into consideration the continuing nature of both the serious times and the fun times.  They are interactive and continuous processes that represent important threads within “the tie that binds.”  Sometimes one is more apparent than the other.  Over time, though, the importance of both fun and seriousness need equal attention.  In fact, if one is going to be emphasized more than the other, the marriage would be well served if the balance is in favor of having fun and being fun to be around.

The last item in the activity incorporates and summarizes what may be the central and essential ingredient in being married with style, all the time, on purpose.  “If I were my spouse, I would enjoy being married to me.”  Keep in mind the idea of style as being all the time, on purpose.  “Would you always enjoy being married to you?  Are you a model of effective marriage functioning?  Would it be comfortable for you if your spouse were to function in a manner defined by your functioning for the next six months?”

Importantly, this does not mean that the spouse behaves exactly as the individual behaves.  Rather, it means that the behavior of the spouse is based on the same assumptions, skills, attitudes, and priorities as are the behavior and functioning of the client.  Almost always, a commitment on the part of the individual to marriage participation that meets this criterion has the effect of improved martial interaction and substantially increased socioemotional gain for both participants in the marriage.

Once this activity has been completed, the next three activities may be understood as behavioral mandates and as marriage effective criteria on which the client and the consultant may focus and through which they may move toward more effective and satisfying marriage involvement of the client.  In short, the next three activities may be understood as a guide to relationship building within the core triad that constitutes the marriage, within the internal triangle.

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