Risk works like sampling Individual Risk. Yes answers to all the
questions in Figure Three mean the person’s marital behavior and
attitudes are not contributing to the family’s being at risk. No answers
are problematic. When assessing Marital Risk, though, it is a little
First, there is a fairly common belief that it takes two to
make a bad marriage. Although both spouses are usually contributing to the
problems, they may not be. As you can see from the marriage questions, you
sample the marriage behavior and attitudes of each spouse. One can have more no
answers than the other; and one of them may not be contributing to the risk at
Here is the point. Marriage is sometimes described as being
an institution, as a relationship, and as two becoming one. You likely know of
other ways of characterizing marriage. The idea is that it is a single thing,
something one can look at and understand by itself.
The goal here is not to debate this abstract issue. Rather,
the goal is for you to look at the couple as two individuals who are the core
of their family. The behavior and attitudes of each spouse need to be sampled.
For example, the wife’s behavior and attitudes reflect her
skill at being married. Some behavior and attitudes show more marriage skill
than others. Put it this way. If she is perfect at being married, she would
always get all yes’s on the marriage risk list. Each no
suggests a point where she is less skilled. The more skilled each spouse is,
the stronger their marriage is. The less skilled either spouse is, the higher
the risk for their family.
Additionally, your understanding needs to reach to a more
basic level. Within their marriage, they are friends, partners, and lovers.
Friendship is the area that gets most of their time and energy, if their
marriage is going well. Being partners is where they take care of the family’s
business and work together to parent their children, if they have any. Being
lovers includes their sexual relationship and is where they share intimacy and
closeness. All three areas are important and hold the possibility of richness
To fully assess your marriage or any marriage, then, you
need to extend the assessment to these three dimensions. For example, ask
yourself this question. If you were your spouse would you enjoy having you as
your friend, partner, and lover? Most of the items in Figure Three can
be expanded in this same way to include the friendship, partnership, and
lover dimensions of the marriage. Not to carefully assess all three
dimensions is to only look at part of the picture.
It will be a good exercise for you to sample the marriage of
Leroy and TJ’s mother. From the time TJ was six until twenty years later, you
get glimpses of their friendship and partnership. Based on the information
available, focus on their friendship, partnership, and lover relationship as
suggested above. You will get some insight into their friendship and
partnership and can intelligently speculate about their lover relationship.
Based on your assessment, why do you think TJ was eventually
excluded from the family? Why do you think they are still together twenty years
later? If their marriage is their family today, what do you think the risk is
for their family now?