| MAIN ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE
PREPARE-MC AND STEPFAMILIES (by Jenny Cleal)
FINANCIAL STRESS AND PREMARITAL COUPLES (by Alan Craddock)
This is the first increase in the base cost of processing since 1999. The $35 processing charge was set then and the GST added to this in June 2000, taking the GST inclusive charge to $38.50. Between June 1999 and June 2005, our net costs have increased by almost 15% due to constant increases in the expenses associated largely with wages, printing and postage. Our intention is to maintain the new processing charge for a lengthy period of time (as we have done before).
We always aimed to make the processing cost comparable to that of a
modest meal for a couple – we feel sure that $44 (for a couple) is still
well and truly within those limits.
Please note that the PREPARE-ENRICH Processing Centre will close on
Friday 15th December 2006 and reopen on Wednesday 3rd January 2007.
PREPARE AND BECOMING PARENTS
This article is written by Jenny Cleal (one of our Trainers in Victoria
and Co-ordinator of the LifeWorks Marriage Relationship Program) and was
first published in Threshold March 2006. Threshold
is a magazine about marriage education and is available to all marriage
and relationship educators, celebrants and counsellors in Australia and
New Zealand. It is published quarterly. Annual subscription is $30
(PO Box 449 Heidelberg 3084 Australia).
The Prepare group of inventories provides facilitators with plenty of scope to explore the impact of a child on the couple relationship.
In response to statement No. 87, “Raising children would put an additional strain on our relationship”, it is always surprising, but somewhat understandable, that many respondents disagree. Asking couples to reflect on how they think that they, as children, impacted on their parents relationship can often encourage them to think more realistically about this new life stage.
Another good way into this part of the work is for facilitators to ask couples to consider how the experience of becoming parents has been for their friends or other family members. “What have they said?”, “What have you noticed?”, “How do they appear to be managing?”, “What do they say about their sexual relationship?” etc.
While the couple discuss their observations it is an opportunity for the facilitator to encourage the couple to identify the strengths and skills that will support their own transition to parenthood as well as to name potentially negative experiences.
As with other key areas of Prepare it is always useful to go back to the couples’ experience of being parented. The statement with direct relevance here is No. 142 “My partner’s family raised children differently than my family”. Asking couples to identify the similarities and differences between their respective upbringings provides an excellent springboard into them deciding how they would want to parent – eg, what they see as acceptable discipline (No. 42) and how they would negotiate different views.
Prepare also offers the facilitator the opportunity (Nos. 12, 57 and 128) to explore the mother/father role with couples. A question like, “Do you want to be a father/mother like your own father/mother?”, challenges couples to think more deeply about the experience and whether they want to be different.
For couples with different faith backgrounds, No. 115 “My partner and I agree on the type of religious education for our current/future children” becomes relevant. While this difference may not impact on the couple as much, when it comes to children it can often be an issue. The expectations of the extended family can often be ‘played out’ here – in particular where there are very different cultural expectations.
Another important group of questions providing a link to the topic of ‘becoming parents’ is the group of questions related to roles. The facilitator has an important task here to encourage the individuals to discuss their expectations with regard to ‘career and baby’ and ‘home and baby’. What happens now, how that might change and more importantly how the couple might feel about those changes is part of the process.
Of course all this discussion is being conducted without having had the experience of becoming a parent – so nothing can be set in concrete. It is however a great opportunity to raise the issues for further thought and to examine the assumptions we often make about this transition and about one another.
It is also important to be on the lookout for divergent views between the couple about having children. Prepare CC couples can sometimes expect a partner to change with marriage and ‘come along’ with the decision to have a child even if they seemed diffident while co-habiting.
In the case of Prepare MC clients it can be even more complex for the couple who want to become parents together but who have other children. Half and step sibling relationships have to be managed respectfully while the couple negotiate their own roles with, and rules for, their biological child. These may be different to those for the other children who may move between houses and be subject to different rules. A useful starting point for this discussion is statement No.20 “My partner and I are adequately prepared for the realities of blended family living”.
In summary, the statements in Prepare cover most of the key areas including, seeking a difference of opinion about number of children (No.18 – difficult when one party does not want children) and the timing (No.19 – very interesting in view of the older couples we are seeing in our couple work). Participant responses always make for an interesting session.
There is however an assumption that generally couples will succeed at
becoming parents. There is not a question that relates to the impact on
the relationship of not being able to have a baby – this topic is a challenge
for the facilitator and one that requires sensitivity.
PREPARE-MC AND STEPFAMILIES
This article is written by Jenny Cleal (one of our Trainers in Victoria and Co-ordinator of the LifeWorks Marriage Relationship Program) and was first published in Threshold, 69, 2001. This article is reproduced here with permission of the author and editor.
The Inventory program Prepare MC is ideally suited to working with couples repartnering where there are children involved. Couples like the idea of a facilitator being available to meet their particular needs, which may be different to other stepfamilies. Prepare MC is an ideal alternative or addition to a group experience.
Prepare MC allows a couple to explore their preparedness for this challenging family form with the inclusion of statements like “My partner and I are adequately prepared for the realities of stepfamily living”. The ability of the facilitator to draw on the experience and success of the couple in managing issues that they have encountered so far can be very affirming.
Where one partner is entering the new family without children, Prepare MC provides the facilitator with statements that promote discussion of the role of the stepparent eg. “We have discussed the responsibilities of both parents in raising children and stepchildren”. Allowing space for the individuals to reflect on the type of role and the development of that role with the children (which has usually begun and may or may not be running smoothly) can be helpful. It is also appropriate for the facilitator to challenge the adults to think about the “what ifs” at this time, eg. the possibility of teenage children wanting to move from one biological parent to another in the future.
Prepare MC also promotes discussion of the way the couple will enrich their own relationship amidst the realities of former spouses, children, custody and visitation arrangements and financial settlements. It also provides reality checks for the couple with statements like, “My partner is sometimes fearful of another relationship breakup”, or “My partner and I have worked out all issues and hurts from our past relationships”.
The included statement examples are in addition to the regular statements that appear in Prepare and make Prepare MC a very useful relationship education/counselling tool for couples repartnering.
A question that emerges from a finding like this is to what extent are financially troubled premarital couples affected by their financial distress? Is it possible that their relationship satisfaction is reduced by financial stress?
An analysis of a sample of 520 PREPARE couples reveals that individual income is positively and significantly correlated with couple positive couple agreement scores in a number of key categories. The greater the income the higher the couple satisfaction. For both males and females, the categories that reveal this trend are Financial Management, Leisure Activities, and Family & Friends.
This seems to indicate that financial hardship (associated with lower levels of income) interferes with and inhibits planning and implementation of activities and goals that are finance-related or costly. For lower income couples, setting up and managing budgets becomes difficult and couple conflict becomes more likely. Also, engaging in costly leisure activities and spending time with friends and family in such activities becomes more difficult for financially troubled couples.
PREPARE Administrators need to be watchful for this possibility.
Lower income couples should benefit greatly from some relevant and focused
work on the Financial Management exercise on pages 19-21 of the Building
a Strong Marriage Workbook. It would also be helpful to specifically
link work on Communication, Conflict Resolution, Leisure Activities and
Family & Friends categories to couples’ financial circumstances and
the current consequences of these circumstances.
REFERRALS FOR CIVIL MARRIAGE CELEBRANTS
Civil Marriage Celebrants are required to encourage couples to attend pre-marriage programmes. Celebrants often contact the Prepare Office to obtain contact details for Prepare Administrators in their area.
We are compiling a list of Prepare Administrators who would be willing to offer the Prepare programme to such couples.
If you would like to have your name added to this list please email
or phone the Prepare Office. This list will not be published - it
is for our office use only. If we had a request from a civil celebrant
in your area we would provide them with your contact details
Extending and maintaining your skills : Knowledge and skills need to be maintained and there are two ways of helping this process. The first is using the materials regularly and the second is becoming involved in some ongoing skills development work. We are now offering some training opportunities for existing administrators to further develop their skills and knowledge.
For a current list of Skills Development programs that are available go to:
Do you know anyone among your colleagues who might be interested in becoming a PREPARE-ENRICH Administrator? Over the years we have grown mainly by word-of-mouth publicity. This is gratifying to us since it shows we are providing a useful resource.
Please let your colleagues know about PREPARE-ENRICH and tell them about
our website (www.prepare-enrich.com.au). By clicking on the training link
on the Administrators' homepage they can locate a workshop or find contact
details for a Trainer in their area, and can read information about all
the PREPARE materials and resources.
At the beginning of each month we place a brief (usually one page) article
on our website focusing on a matter or theme that is likely to be helpful
to PREPARE-ENRICH administrators. Sometimes this is a brief summary
of relevant research, sometimes a practical suggestion, and sometimes a
way of thinking about couples' issues. It is good to get into the
habit of reading these monthly hints. The current hint, and an archive
of all the hints posted in previous months, can be accessed from the Administrators'
main page. News item updates are also included.
ORIGINS OF CONFLICTED COUPLES - AN AUSTRALIAN STUDY
The experience of family of origin is an important area for investigation among couples taking PREPARE. Dr Alan Craddock (National Coordinator of PREPARE-ENRICH Australia and Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, The University of Sydney) has recently completed a small booklet called Origins: Family Experiences of Premarital Couples. This booklet, written solely for PREPARE-ENRICH Administrators, is based on an analysis of 520 Australian couples who have taken PREPARE and has three main aims:
1. To identify and explore the main differences between highly satisfied (vitalised) and more troubled (conflicted) premarital couples.
2. To examine the differences in family background of vitalised versus conflicted premarital couples in the National sample. Of major interest is any link between negative experiences within family of origin in the past (separateness, rigidity and exposure to abuse) and present difficulties in couple relationship.
3. To explore the practical implications of these findings, particularly when working with conflicted premarital couples. General strategies for working with conflicted couples are also described.
The cost is only $12 and this includes postage and GST.