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Relationship Between Premarital and Marital Satisfaction Coursework

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Updated: Sep 27th, 2020


Marital dissatisfaction influences all people, regardless of their age, race, or cultural backgrounds. It often causes separation and divorce. Divorce can lead to adverse effects that last for a long period. Social workers, counselors, and other professionals who offer premarital and marital guidance work to mitigate marital dissonance with the aim of seeking better matrimonial satisfaction. The aim of this paper is to explore the relationship between premarital and marital satisfaction based on the case of John and Carmen.

John and Carmen are seeking premarital counseling since their respective families are a stabling block to their plans. Based on their case, this paper will examine whether engagement in premarital counseling can lead to higher satisfaction in marriage. The above claim is founded on the awareness that John and Carmen have difficulties in their respective families whose history is characterized by distress. Second, this paper will also explore whether a positive encounter of premarital counseling is associated with a higher likelihood that couples will avoid marital discord.


Contemporary society greatly acknowledges a successful marriage. According to a review conducted by Carroll and Doherty (2003), about 93% of Americans engaged in a Meta-Analytic study, which suggested that having a successful marriage was one of the most fundamental objectives in life. Unsuccessful marriages have been linked to issues that relate to premature premarital preparations.

Even though each individual may desire a balanced and happy marriage, the study by Carroll and Doherty (2003) suggests that this desire is not always the case. Currently, the rate of divorce has been on the rise. Nearly 75% of these separations occur within the early years of marriage. To ameliorate this situation, it is necessary for social work specialists to consider intervention programs that facilitate the attainment of successful and reliable matrimony (Barton, Futris, & Bradley, 2012).

For the case of John and Carmen, family historical distress is identified as the most pronounced reason that can lead to separation if they get married. Communication involves dialogue regarding critical issues that contribute to the marriage. The existing insecurity between the parents of John and Carmen calls for preventive techniques in marriage such as premarital education and counseling. The main objective of premarital guidance entails enabling the transition from single to married life, including building communication skills. The issue assessed, in this case, is the family history of distress. An Individual’s background is a key factor in choosing a long life partner. Some other factors that are secondary to this assessment include effective communication and problem-solving.

The Marital Satisfaction Inventory, Revised (MSI-R)

Many people spend a huge amount of finances, time, and effort to organize their wedding. However, less time, if any, is committed to preparing for marriage. Such preparations involve engagement in the premarital counseling program. MSI-R is an overhaul improvement and standardization of the Marital Satisfaction Inventory (MSI) (Barton, Futris, & Bradley, 2012). This assessment tool was developed to help couples in building appropriate communication skills regarding a wide range of issues.

This revised edition involved several changes in terminologies and scope of analysis. Even with the changes, the main features of the MSI were retained. The MSI-R is a self-assessment instrument that determines the nature and magnitude of stress along with various measures of a couple’s relationship (Driver & Gottman, 2004). Every individual’s outcome can be scored and explained separately or in connection with one’s partner. Assessment can be done using a hand-scored paper and pen or via online appraisal via computer scoring. The items are assessed on 13-scale items that include:

  • Inconsistency;
  • Sexual dissatisfaction;
  • Conventionalization;
  • Global distress;
  • Problem-solving communication;
  • Aggression;
  • Time together;
  • Disagreement about finances;
  • Role orientation;
  • Family history of distress;
  • Dissatisfaction with children;
  • Conflict over child-rearing;
  • Affective communication.

The purpose of the MSI-R is to determine the nature and magnitude of couples’ distress when they are in need of combined counseling. According to Funk and Rogge (2007), the MSI-R has distinct features to support the therapy process. In other words, MSI-R is affordable. Less effort is required to collect information across a diverse range of premarital issues. The technique allows critical information to be gathered in advance. The MSI-R also enables partners to share information that each partner is eager to say or hear. Besides, the MSI-R can offer essential interpretive feedback to John and Carmen. Communication of the assessment feedback is enabled via a graphic presentation of profile scores and the face value of measurement content.

In the case of John and Carmen, various assessment findings can be examined using the MSI-R. John and Carmen have difficulties in handling issues that emanate from their families. For instance, John’s family believes that Carmen is going to take much of John’s time and end up forgetting his siblings. On the other hand, Carmen’s family is worried about their daughter marrying John since he does not share the same religious faith.

In various situations, faith-based issues are the first area of consideration for many individuals who seek to start a relationship. Even though these issues are family-related, rather than individual-based, they can lead to marital discord when overlooked. When these issues are discussed with the partners in a cooperative dialogue, the outcome from the MSI-R can enhance intervention rapport and the establishment of the treatment plan that corresponds to the couple’s needs. As a multi-faceted inventory, MSI-R can act as a measure of intervention benefits during therapy, both in the targeted aspects and in areas that are not highlighted by the clinical process (Funk & Rogge, 2007).

The Assessment and Interpretation Process

The assessment plan should seek to administer the MSI-R to John and Carmen during a conjoint session. The goal is to interview the couple together to provide extensive information for assessment. Carmen’s description of her family indicates that she is very attached to it, including her religious beliefs. Even though her family seems to be supportive, it is also conservative since it is not willing to let her get married to people of a different faith.

On the other hand, John’s family of origin seems to be less secure. In fact, the relatives are afraid that Carmen is taking John away from them. The couple experiences some friction concerning the way of solving this problem. People with the same scores as those of John and Carmen feel unappreciated or misunderstood. Carmen should not compel John to join her faith to avoid future disagreements that will be based on beliefs and practices.

The MSI-R advocates an approach to assessing couples by organizing evaluation constructs along with five areas that include cognitive, affective, communication, and related behaviors (Hohmann-Marriott, 2001). Assessment information across these main areas is obtained using various assessment approaches such as self-reporting and observation. Undoubtedly, John and Carmen experience little concerns across varying domains of their relationship.

This case suggests that John and Carmen may move on well in different relationship issues by establishing shared goals. John and Carmen’s families differ in the way the marriage is going to influence their lives. Although John is willing to convert his religious faith to that of Carmen, this option might not be the right move. Significant disruptions and conflicts within John’s family might arise. Difficulties that John’s family may encounter must be assessed to ensure that similar problems are not drugged in John and Carmen’s marriage.

All couples encounter challenges in their relationships regarding conflicting interests of families, friends, and/or the amount of time to be spent. However, some couples manifest much ease in the way they solve their issues more efficiently when compared to others (Martino, 2008). John and Carmen manifest a relationship that is faced with similar problems. The two partners reckon the serious tribulations in their relationship. The troubles arise from their respective families.

They express much distress in solving the issues presented by their families. Such relationship problems that emanate from families are likely to last long if not resolved before marriage. John should desist from changing religion to fit in the current situation since he might not be comfortable adapting to a new belief system. Partners with such scores tend to describe their relationship as complicated and uncertain.

Evaluation of how MSI-R is used with Clients

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) seeks to guarantee public trust in a marriage and family therapist by issuing goals for legal and ethical activities. The AAMFT ensures commitment to service and advocacy by therapists. When making decisions about a client, marriage therapists must factor in the AAMFT Code of Ethics. When dealing with clients, ethical standards include equality. John and Carmen have different racial, ethnic, socioeconomic status, and religious backgrounds. Thus, marriage and family therapists should not discriminate against any of the two based on diversity.

Other ethical considerations when using MSI-R include maintaining confidentiality by handling clients’ data with caution and respect (Hohmann-Marriott, 2001). Couples’ information should not be shared with any unauthorized individual or entity. Besides, the information should not be applied in any way that can harm the reputation of partners who participate in the counseling programs.

One way of guaranteeing information safety is to ensure that information folders are stored in confidential units. Another way of enhancing clients’ information safety is by ensuring that none of the assessment results or findings bears the actual names or any form of familiar marks on them, which would easily disclose the identity and consequently, the information concerning any of the couples. The AAMFT Ethics Committee has the capacity to interrogate complaints against marriage therapists for any alleged misconduct or breach of the AAMFT Code of Ethics.

Application of MSI-R to the Current Scenario

Family History of Distress scale (FAM) assesses the level of interruptions of relationships within the couple’s family of origin (Lou, Lin, Chen, Balderrama-Durbin, & Snyder, 2015). Its postulation is that either unresolved problems emanating from the family of origin or lack of appropriate parental strategies may add hugely to distress in the current relationship. Low scores on this scale, probably below 45T, suggest a history of desirable relationships within the client’s family of origin.

The couples from these backgrounds report a relatively happy lifestyle and positive outlook concerning their siblings and parents. They might also indicate that their parents’ marriages are free from distress. Furthermore, their parents are described as being positive models because of their expression of affective communication and problem-solving techniques.

Medium scores on the FAM, probably ranging from 45T-55T, suggest huge tension in their families of origin. These scores also reflect conflicting interests in relationships with their parents regarding the decisions they make in life. The parents may have experienced challenges in handling the underlying. High scores on the FAM, probably exceeding 55T, suggest far-reaching conflict in the family of origin (Lou et al., 2015).

People who attain high scores on this scale often suggest disconnection from family. Both John and Carmen score moderately on FAM since they manifest various fears encompassing their families. For instance, Carmen is prepared to transform John into her cultural values and religion because Carmen’s family members are not willing to give their daughter to a person from another religion or race for marriage.

Following the moderate scores that suggest distress within the family histories of origin in response to John and Carmen’s case, marriage and family counselors should seek to understand the respective families. Factors that lead to a moderate score should be examined to identify how they may influence the functioning of John’s relationship. For a successful marriage, John and Carmen should be helped in learning and understanding how their respective family history of distress can influence their matrimony. The MSI-R should be used to help this couple to avoid being stuck in a series of conflicts originating from their families.


John and Carmen’s case has emphasized the essence of premarital counseling with the help of MSI-R. Premarital counseling can contribute to increased satisfaction while at the same time preparing John and Carmen for a happy marriage. Furthermore, premarital counseling increases the probability that John and Carmen will engage in counseling programs during the marriage. Despite the presence of various premarital education programs such as MSI-T-related therapies, they all have common objectives of promoting effective communication and/or acknowledging people’s diversity issues.

Reference List

Barton, A., Futris, T., & Bradley, R. (2012). Changes following premarital education for couples with differing degrees of future marital risk. Journal of Marital Family Therapy, 40(2), 165-177.

Carroll, J., & Doherty, W. (2003). Evaluating the effectiveness of premarital prevention programs: A meta-analytic review of outcome research. Family Relations, 52(2), 105-118.

Driver, J., & Gottman, J. (2004). Daily marital interactions and positive affect during marital conflict among newlywed couples. Family Process, 43(3), 301-314.

Funk, J., & Rogge, R. (2007). Testing the ruler with item response theory: Increasing precision of measurement for relationship satisfaction with the couple’s satisfaction index. Journal of Family Psychology, 21(4), 572-583.

Hohmann-Marriott, B. (2001). Marriage and family therapy research: ethical issues and guidelines. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 29(1), 1-11.

Lou, Y., Lin, C., Chen, C., Balderrama-Durbin, C., & Snyder, D. (2015). Assessing intimate relationships of Chinese couples in Taiwan using the Marital Satisfaction Inventory-Revised. Assessment, 23(3), 267-278.

Martino, S. (2008). Relating to each other: Couples’ engagement in premarital counseling. Psyccritiques, 53(43), 7-9.

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