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Family Life Cycle - Coupling Stage

The next stage in the family life cycle may be coupling. Using qualities such as trust that you gained in the independence stage, you can explore your ability to commit to a new family and a new way of life. Although being in an intimate relationship with someone does involve a process of adaptation and relationship building, a marriage or committed union often requires unique skills.

When you join families through a marriage or committed union, you form a new family system. Your family system includes your personal ideas, expectations, and values. These are shaped by the relationships and experiences with your original family. When you marry or form a union, you combine your family system with your spouse's or partner's. This requires reshaping your goals and your partner's goals. In the most functional relationships, partners have the ability to take two different points of view and create an option that neither person had considered. It differs from a compromise in that it is not giving up something. Rather, it is creating a third, better option.

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You may find that some of the ideas or expectations that you held in the past are not realistic at this stage. Some common areas of adjustment include:

  • Finances.
  • Lifestyle.
  • Recreational activities or hobbies.
  • Relationships with in-laws.
  • Sexuality or sexual compatibility.
  • Friendships.
  • Putting another person's needs before your own.

The ultimate goal at this stage is to achieve interdependence, which occurs when you are able to fully enter into a relationship with another person. Interdependence also requires that you share goals and that you are able to sometimes place the needs of another above your own. But before you can achieve interdependence, you must first have a high degree of independence.

The relationship skills you learn in coupling serve as a foundation for other relationships, such as parent-child, teacher-student, or physician-patient.

Within a couple, you learn:

  • Advanced interpersonal communication.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Common spiritual and emotional development goals.
  • How to form boundaries in relationships.
  • When to place the needs or importance of the other person above your own.
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