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Marriage Work-Out Team Building



A Model of Marital Team Development

In this Marriage Work-Out Team-Building Workshop you are asked to diagnose your marital team's effectiveness and to develop objectives for improvement. You will be assisted by a model or plan for effective marital team development.   ·

This model of marital team development consists of a hierarchy of four key variables: goals, relationship, roles, and procedures. The model indicates the order in which maintenance activities should be carried out. The couple should first check and, if necessary, attend to setting their goals, then move on to their relationship, next their roles, and finally the procedures for getting the team developed.

1. GOALS: At the top of the hierarchy are marital goals that must be understood and agreed to by the couple. If this criterion is unmet, marital team effectiveness could suffer as each partner may be pulling in a different direction.  On the positive side, joint goals constitute a cohesive and energizing force for the couple, a feeling of working together.

2. RELATIONSHIP: Whenever two people agree to marry and create a life together, they form judgments about each other's ''style of behavior'' and the underlying patterns of motivation. These are often misperceived and misunderstood. As a result, negative feelings may develop toward one another. The consequences of these negative feelings can be revealed in both verbal and nonverbal behavior. The couple may avoid one another, gripe at each other (directly or in a passive fashion), or simply choose to live together in pain. On the other hand, the extent to which the couple trusts, supports, respects, and feels comfortable with one another affects their harn1onious balance as a team. In the final analysis, mutual support, trust, and respect is built upon an accurate understanding and acceptance of the strengths, weaknesses, and unique contributions each partner brings to the marital team.

3. ROLES: Next in the marital team development hierarchy are roles. Role clarity means knowing exactly what each member of the team expects or wants of the other.  Marital team members often suffer from role ambiguity, which means that it is easier to spell out expectations for the other than it is to tell each other what is fulfilling in the relationship. An individual can be clear about a marital role and still experience role conflict. A spouse experiences role conflict when the partner expects one thing and the spouse expects another. Meeting one set of expectations may mean not meeting the other. Role conflict then occurs as a result of these conflicting expectations. Although a certain amount of role conflict is inevitable, it is debilitating in terms of diverting energy from the main goal of marital harmony, especially if there is no acceptable means of resolving the conflict. Unless roles are clear and reasonably free of conflict, the marital team will be ineffective.

4. PROCEDURES: The fourth level in the marital development hierarchy involves the procedures used for getting work done together. An effective team will follow a specific procedure for making high-quality decisions. Problem solving will exploit the fact that it is a system with a range of resources.  The marital team will manage its time together for maximum output and team maintenance. An effective marital team will recognize task-related conflicts (fights) as an opportunity for learning and growth and will develop procedures for managing conflicts that are productive rather than destructive.

5. SUMMARY: The marital team development model follows the hierarchy sequence of goals, relationship, roles, procedures. This is the natural order in which a marital team should address its issues. Although interpersonal problems may appear to be the dominant issue facing the couple, often they are simply symptoms of unresolved problems in other areas.

The recommended sequence, on the other hand, is subject to change based upon the diagnosis of the marital team's needs, the couple's target for improvement, and the data generated in this Marriage Work-Out Team-Building Manual.


1. Identification.

Action planning is essential if marital team development efforts are to succeed. Planning also needs to be part of a simple but effective framework, which includes identification of needs, feedback, and subsequent review of action. In team development activity this framework should be kept in mind:

  1. Identify Needs/Objective
  2. Plan Actions
  3. Review/ Access Progress

Action planning should be undertaken only after needs have been identified. Review progress during and after each stage in the action.

2. Checklist Approach to Marital Action Planning

Review these questions and explore the answers together;

a.    What is the need?

  • To develop a more effective form of communication?
  • To improve our decision-making ability?
  • To clarify our objectives?
  • To assess and improve the way we operate as a marital team?


b.    Is this need agreed upon by both of us?

  • Have we communicated thoroughly and honestly?
  • Have we ensured commitment?
  • Should we spend more time identifying needs?
  • Have we been able to reach a consensus on this need?


c.    To whom does this action apply?

  • One of us?
  • Both of us?
  • Our children?
  • Our nuclear family?
  • Our extended family?


d.    How will we recognize success?

  • Are we sure of our objectives?
  • Are they measurable?
  • Can other people help us evaluate them?
  • What behavioral changes do we expect? From whom?


e.    Is anyone beside ourselves likely to be affected?

  • Our children?
  • Our parents?
  • Our in-laws?
  • Our families of origin?
  • Our work colleagues?
  • Our friends?


f.     What methods, techniques, or actions shall we adopt?

  • The development activities in Marriage Work-out?
  • Other activities and  techniques of marital enrichment?
  • Marriage encounter?
  • Marriage counseling?


g.    What resources will we need?

  • Are we competent to undertake the marital team development activities alone?
  • Do we need external help?
  • Can family members help us?
  • Can friends help us?
  • Will we need professional help?


h.    What time frame shall we adopt?

  • One month?
  • Six months?
  • One year?
  • Five years?


i.     How shall we review our progress?

  • Self-review?
  • By process observation?
  • By regular, specific review meetings?
  • By how we handle new problems?


j.     What process of assessment will we use to decide if further action is necessary?

  • Evaluate the effects of our team building on each other?
  • Evaluate the impact on our families and friends?
  • Evaluate changes in our feelings toward the marriage?
  • Assess the level of our mutual happiness?
  • Analyze our needs again?
  • Identify new needs and start again (feeling strengthened by the team-building process)?


Marital Team Development Questionnaire

DIRECTIONS: The following nine pairs of statements are descriptive of a marital team’s functional effectiveness. The statements on the left are optimal with a value of 10; The statements on the right, however, are valued at 1. Rate your marital team’s effectiveness on each of the nine scales from 10 (highest) to 1 (lowest) and record the level in the space provided. Do not share your ratings with your spouse until you have completed all nine scales.


[1] Goal Clarity: To what extent do we understand and commit to team goals? Rating: _____


Team goals are clear; energy is expended by both of us in their achievement. Priorities are derived from basic team objectives.


Team  goals  are unclear; we appear to be working at cross purposes or pulling in different directions; conflicts occur about what we should be doing.


[2] Recognition/Cooperation: To what extent do we cooperate with each other? Make individual, unique contributions to the marital team?

Rating: _____


We are aware of the strengths each   of us brings to the team; our life together is characterized by a high degree of cooperation; each is

encouraged to make his/her unique contribution


There is little cooperation. We feel taken  for granted. Our ideas and suggestions are discounted by each other.  Only the negative aspects are recognized.


[3] Support/Cohesion: To what extent do we feel a part of the marital team? How do we operate as a team?

Rating: _____


Each partner is encouraged and respected. Input is sought from

each other; we instinctively pull together in adversity.


There  is little mutual respect; a lot of energy is expended on covering up mistakes; competition runs high. We seek approval from outside the team.


[4] Role Clarity: To what extent are the marital roles, responsibilities, and expectations spelled out and adhered to?

Rating: _____


We are each clear about what we should be doing in this marriage; respective responsibilities are discussed openly, and questions are clarified.


We are each in doubt about which responsibility is whose. Discussions are seldom held about how we can work together. There is a lot of blaming.


[5] Role Conflict: To what extent are our marital roles, responsibilities, and expectations in conflict with each other?

Rating: _____


We know what we are supposed to do and it all seems to fit together. Conflicting expectations are discussed openly and resolved with both members coming out winners.


We make conflicting demands on each other. We have too many irons in the fire with too little time to accomplish anything very well. Someone always seems to be the loser.

[6] Participation/Influence:  To what extent do we participate in making the decisions that affect our roles and responsibilities to each other? To the team?

Rating: _____


We express ourselves freely in discussions about our marriage.

We encourage each other to participate; no one is discounted; all ideas are considered.


One of us always seems to influence the important decisions. We are reluctant   to   participate in open discussions. We don't really trust each other.


[7] Team Effectiveness: To what extent are our marital team meetings focused on relevant issues. Is our team effective in contributing to sound decisions?

Rating: _____


Team issues are clearly stated. Decisions made are carried out effectively by each of us. We leave our meetings with a clear idea of what our respective responsibilities are. We each do our part.


The reasons for holding meetings are unclear. The same problems seem to occur over and over, nothing really gets done in our meetings. They break down into blaming sessions with little or no follow up.


[8] Conflict Management: How are our differences and/or conflicts resolved by the marital team

Rating: _____


Differences/conflicts are addressed openly. Differing points of view are hashed out until agreements are reached that make sense to each of us. A consensus is arrived at whenever possible. Compromise is the key to the resolutions.


Conflicts/differences are passed over or disregarded. We make the least of the disagreements or avoid them entirely. Martyrdom exists in great supply.


[9] Energy: What is the general feeling of marital accomplishment and satisfaction?

Rating: _____


We usually feel satisfied. Even when we are tired, we know our time and energy have been well spent. We can devote ourselves to our marriage with a minimum of hassle. We both know our roles and responsibilities and work together efficiently. We use praise, gratitude, and hugging. Energy level runs high.


We often feel as though our energy is wasted. The things we have to do seem like unnecessary expenditures of time and energy, but we just try to get them done without confrontation. There are lots of gritted teeth. Stress runs high.



Brief definitions of each scale are given below, along with examples to help in understanding their significance. Read this section carefully for aid in follow-up marriage work-out sessions at home.


Scale 1: Goal Clarity

This scale is concerned with the mission or direction of the marital team. Responses to Scale 1 tell whether or not you both clearly understand your marital team's overall goals, and whether or not you both agree on these goals. If you do not have a clear understanding of your marital team's mission, or if you disagree about which goals are top priority, it will be difficult for you to make decisions on allocating your team's resources, time, and energy


Scale 2 Recognition/Cooperation and Scale 3: Support/Cohesion

These scales are concerned with how spouses feel about the marital team and the way they interact daily. In Scale 2, the element measured is whether or not the spouses treat each other with respect, recognizing that each has an important contribution to make. Recognition makes a spouse feel good about individual roles and responsibilities and about working together as a team. Without positive recognition it is difficult for a spouse to maintain the level of involvement necessary to attain the marital team's objectives. In Scale 3, the element measured is the extent to which the team members feel they are a ''together'' system. When spouses help and support one another, pulling    together, they develop a cohesive team. This kind    of cohesiveness encourages team responsibility; working together toward a common goal. A general atmosphere of cooperation and supportiveness exists.


Scale 4: Role Clarity and Scale 5: Role Conflict

These scales are concerned with marital team members' roles. A spouse's role consists of the various functions s/he performs in the marriage. Besides general roles in life (worker, friend, community member, relative, student, etc.), a spouse also has a role as a member of the marital team. A spouse's role is partly determined by assumptions of what s/he should be doing (leading, following, representing financial interests, etc.) and partly by the other's expectations. Sometimes a spouse's expectations are unclear. For Scale 4 - role clarity, no conclusions can be drawn; no assumptions can be made. Every element of the role must be discussed, regardless of how simple or obvious it may seem. The biggest pitfall in role clarity is the preconceived ideas brought to the marriage; old scripts from the past; incompletely discussed expectations. Take the time and trouble to talk out every single aspect of each role. Scale 5 - measures role conflict. In the case of either role conflict or role ambiguity, spouses find it difficult to coordinate their efforts to accomplish the marital team's objectives. This issue must be resolved, even if it requires professional help.


Scale 6: Participation/Influence and Scale 7: Team Effectiveness

Scale 6 - Participation/Influence deals with the decision-making process. Responses reflect the sense of partnership in team discussions. Valuable input is lost if one team member does not participate. The quality of decisions is lessened by being one-sided. Successful marital teams ensure equal participation. This increases the team members' understanding of and commitment to implementation. Each member is equally influenced by the other, bringing a balance to the marital team and logic to the decisions. Scale 7 - Team effectiveness deals with leadership and taking responsibility. Being committed to team goals is essential, of course, but each partner should take responsibility for exerting leadership and stimulating discussion. Is the leadership being exerted effectively? Effectiveness is defined here as a high-quality outcome or solution to a problem equally implemented and accepted.


Scale 8: Conflict Management

Scale 8 is concerned with the ways in which the marital team deals with disagreements. Because of marital interdependent tasks, conflicts are inevitable. It is out of conflict that creative, innovative solutions are developed. Unresolved conflict can lead to an energy drain away from marital team performance and harmony. A regular time for discussion of conflicts should be set. Keep the site neutral, even if you have to go to a restaurant or rent a hotel room.


Scale 9: Energy

Scale 9 - ''Energy'' in a marital team is a vital sign of the efficient performance of tasks and simply feeling enthusiastic about being married. A lack of energy can leave team members facing unresolved problems over and over, with marital disharmony as the result. Energy efficiency is relevant to the entire marital atmosphere. A lack of energy could be jeopardizing your team's performance on each of the other eight scales.

Discussion Questions on Marital Team Exercises

  1. Is it useful to consider our marital partnership as a team? Why?
  2. What is the state of our marital team?
  3. What are our strengths as a team?
  4. What are our weaknesses as a team?
  5. How important are the nine areas of effectiveness to our marital happiness?
  6. Which of these areas need improvement as we embark on our Marriage Work-out?
  7. What would happen to our team if we failed to improve the nine areas of effectiveness?
  8. What team-maintenance measures will ensure sustaining the improvements we have experienced?
  9. What outside resources could we both call on to strengthen our team?
  10. By what standards or role models do we judge our marital team?