A research study in the USA examined the family and friendship networks of newly married couples at three occasions: when applying for a marriage license, at the first anniversary, and at the second year anniversary. (Kearns, J., & Leonard, K. “Social Networks, Structural Interdependence, and Marital Quality Over the Transition to Marriage: A Prospective Analysis” Journal of Family Psychology, 18 (2), 2004, 383–395.).
The results indicated that the social networks of men and women are significantly reshaped by marriage. After marriage, couples' networks become more interdependent. That is, there is increased overlap between husbands' and wives' friend and family networks. There are also increases in the amount of time that the spouse was included in interactions with friends and family. The major period of change in network interdependence occurs from pre-marriage to the first year of marriage.
Furthermore, husbands and wives who indicated having highly interdependent friend and family networks also showed evidence of having better marital adjustment at each of the assessments.
This finding has an important implication for our work with premarital couples. When we are providing feedback and facilitating discussion on the Family and Friends category of PREPARE/ENRICH we should be careful to encourage couples to discuss the changes that are occurring in this area. Some simple and helpful questions to address include:
- Are their separate networks becoming more interconnected?
- Is this happening in a mutually satisfying and helpful way?
- Or, alternatively, are the networks still being kept very separate, and is this the case for any particular reason?
- Are such reasons good or not?
Do you need help with a particular issue you are having with a couple? Give us a call or email: firstname.lastname@example.org