Just as the ever-increasing number of vocational opportunities makes vocational selection and adjustment difficult, so does the ever-increasing number of family patterns make marital adjustment difficult. This difficulty is increased when one spouse has grown up in a family where the lifestyle differs markedly from that of the other spouse. A woman, for example, whose childhood home life was that of the typical nuclear family may and very likely will find it difficult to adjust to the conditions and problems that arise when she marries a man from an elongated family back-ground.
A careful study of these patterns will help to emphasize the marital adjustment difficulties that are almost inevitable when husband and wife have been brought up in homes where different family patterns prevailed.
Regardless of the type of family, marital adjustment is one of the most difficult adjustments young adults must make. Although it is difficult everywhere, certain factors in the American culture of today make it particularly hard. The most important of these are given below:
Conditions Contributing To Difficulties in Marital Adjustment
Limited Preparation for Marriage
Although sexual adjustments may be easier now than in the past because of more readily available sex information in the home, schools, and colleges, and premarital sexual experience, most couples have received little preparation in the areas of domestic skills, child rearing, getting along with in-laws, and money management.
Roles in Marriage
The trend toward changes in marital roles for both men and women and the different concepts of these roles held by different social classes and religious groups make adjustment problems in marriage more difficult now than in the past, when these roles were more rigidly prescribed.
Marriage and parenthood before young people have finished their education and are economically independent deprives them of the opportunity to have many of the experiences enjoyed by their unmarried contemporaries or even by their married friends who waited to be financially independent before marrying. This leads to constant envy and resentment which militates against good marital adjustments.
Unrealistic Concepts of Marriage
Adults who have spent their lives in school and college, with little or no work experience, tend to have unrealistic concepts of what marriage means in terms of work, deprivations, financial expenditures, or changes in life patterns. This unrealistic approach to marriage inevitably leads to serious adjustment problems which often lead to divorce.
Adjustments to parenthood and to in-laws – both of which are important to marital happiness – are much more difficult in interracial or interreligious marriages than when both marriage partners come from the same racial or religious backgrounds.
The courtship period is shorter now than in the past, and thus the couple has less time to solve many of the problems related to adjustment before they are actually married.
Romantic Concepts of Marriage
Many adults have a romantic concept of marriage developed in adolescence. Overly optimistic expectations of what marriage will bring often lead to disenchantment, which increases the difficulties of adjusting to the duties and responsibilities of marriage.
Lack of Identity
If a man feels that his family, friends, and associates treat him as “Jane’s husband” or if a woman feels that the social group regards her as “just a housewife” even though she is or has been a successful career woman, they are likely to resent the loss of their identity as individuals which they strove hard to achieve and valued highly before marriage.
During the first year or two of marriage, the couple normally must make major adjustments to each other, to members of their families, and to their friends. While these adjustments are being made, there are often emotional tensions and this then is understandably a very stormy period. After adjusting to each other, their families, and friends, they must adjust to parenthood. This increases the adjustment problems if it comes while the earlier adjustments are being made.
People who marry during their thirties or in middle age frequently require a longer time for adjustments and the end result is often not as satisfactory as in the case of those who marry earlier. However, those who marry in their teens or early twenties tend to make the poorest adjustments of all as shown by the high divorce rate among those who married at these ages.
The times when adjustments to different aspects of marital life must be made differ according to the age at which men and women marry. However, characteristically important events necessitate major adjustments.
Of the many adjustment problems in marriage, the four most common and the most important for marital happiness are adjustment to a mate, sexual adjustments, financial adjustments, and in-law adjustments.