Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Study of Two Marital Enrichment Programs and Couples' Quality of Life

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

A Study of Two Marital Enrichment Programs and Couples' Quality of Life

Article excerpt

The need for empirical research that contributes to the prevention and arrest of marital distress is increasing. Factors identified through research as being influential in the stability of marriage include intimacy, positive behaviors, social support, good communication, and conflict management. Although a variety of marital enrichment programs that address these same factors do exist, this current study addresses two particular marital enrichment programs: Hope-Focused, and Forgiveness and Reconciliation through Experiencing Empathy (FREE). Couples volunteered to participate in a study of newly married couples (5 months or less) and were then divided into three groups. Two of these groups received approximately 9 hours of marital enrichment and the third group was designated as a control group. The impact of these programs on the couples' quality of life, as determined by the Quality of Life Inventory (QOLI[R]), was examined. Quality of life was found to significantly improve with the administration of a hope-focused marital enrichment program. It approached significance in couples who participated in a forgiveness-based program. In addition, levels of religious commitment and the individual's disposition to forgive are also studied in their relation to overall quality of life. Implications of this study include the application of brief marital enrichment as a preventive measure that could be both cost- and time-conserving. Furthermore, the use of forgiveness training in the therapeutic settings may be beneficial and contribute to individuals' well-being.

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To effectively address the increase in marital distress present in today's society, researchers must identify factors that contribute to success in marriage. Because marital conflict is almost a given for contributing to marital distress (Stanley, Markman, St. Peters & Leber, 1995), the majority of available research has been devoted to conflict resolution and communication skills (Pasch & Bradbury, 1998). Conflict aside, it appears that there is a natural decrease in marital quality that occurs over time, particularly in the first four years of marriage (Kurdek, 1998). However, several empirically supported key components have been identified as influences of relational integrity. These components include (but are not limited to) intimacy, positive and negative behaviors, and the reality of human fallibility.

Enrichment As Prevention

There is a growing concern regarding how to address marital distress in a preventive manner (Hahlweg, Markman, Thurmaier, Engl & Eckert, 1998). Although marital enrichment was originally designed to be a "marital booster" of sorts (Diskin, 1986), it is now applied as a preventive measure as well as an aid in the reduction of marital distress. In fact, some researchers are finding that many couples who report poorer marital adjustment initially have a tendency to show greater improvement after participating in some marital enrichment programs (Giblin, Sprenkle, & Sheehan, 1985; Noval, Combs, Wiinamaki, Bufford & Halter, 1996). The movement of the psychological field towards managed care has birthed a generation of research dedicated to discovering factors that prevent chronic problems as well as influence therapeutic outcome. Focusing the efforts of professional counselors on the training for and practice of the most effective, short-term mental health care as indicated by research is a valuable endeavor (Hahlweg & Markman, 1988; Lipchik, 1994; Worthington, 1996; Wylie, 1990). This is especially true of marital counseling and enrichment, which typically receives relatively little funding by insurance companies. Short-term or brief therapy dictates that therapists empower those with whom they work, giving them generalizable skills necessary to respond effectively to difficult situations. Following this guideline (whether intentionally or unintentionally), many marital enrichment programs provide the couple with tools designed to enhance the marital relationship (Hawley & Olson, 1995) and, in turn, one's overall health, or quality of life. …

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