Communities and nations are stronger when families are healthy and thriving. This makes sense because the family is the basic unit of society. If the foundation of any building is weak, the entire structure is endangered. The same is true of our society. Without strong families, communities and nations are threatened with destruction.
I completed the final exam of my latest class titled “The Family.” For a textbook I used Marriage & Family – The Quest for Intimacy by Robert H. Lauer and Jeanette C. Lauer  published by McGraw Hill Education in New York City. It is impossible for me to share with you everything that I learned over the past fourteen months. What I can tell you is that my studies about marriage and family have opened my eyes. I feel much more compassion for families in general and particularly for some types of families.
I will keep the book to use as a reference, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to strengthen their own family and/or to help others. I encourage older teenagers and young adults to read books and take classes about marriage and family before they make any serious commitments.
I learned much that I can use in strengthening my own family, which would be reason enough to value my new knowledge. However, I also learned much about other marriages and families and their strengths and struggles. My tunnel vision has given way to wider views, and I will never look at families quite the same way again. As one of my final assignments, I wrote the following list of the top ten things that I want to remember from my studies.
1. All human beings have a need for intimacy in their lives. “Intimacy involves love, affection, caring, and deep attachment to a friend, lover, spouse, or relative” (Lauer & Lauer, 2018, 4). Loneliness is the opposite of intimacy, and there are two kinds of loneliness. Social loneliness means less interpersonal interaction than desired, and emotional loneliness means fewer intimate relationships that desired.
2. There are numerous definitions for family. A family can be more than a nuclear family with father, mother, and children or an extended family of more than three generations. Lauer and Lauer define family as “a group united by marriage or cohabitation, blood, and/or adoption in order to satisfy intimacy needs and/or bear and socialize children” (2018, 26). Even though there are many similarities between the different types of families, there are also many differences. Each type of family has its own set of struggles. Lauer and Lauer state that “A good deal of diversity in family life stems from such factors in the social context as cultural background, religion, social class position, and the experience of prejudice and discrimination” (2018, 50).
3. There are more similarities between females and males than differences, and there are some specific terms to explore them. Sex refers to the biological identification as male or female. Gender refers to the male or female as a social creature. Gender role refers to the behavior considered to be either male (strong) or female (gentle). Gender-role orientation refers to how a person perceives their own individual combination of masculine and feminine traits. (See Lauer and Lauer, 2018, 57.)
4. Self-disclosure is important in building intimacy. Each person needs to be willing to share information about themselves in order to have a balanced relationship but should always be discriminating about how much and with whom they share. Self-disclosure “is more than a sharing of information” because it “links you with another person in a mutually growing process.” This sharing of “feelings, needs, thoughts, and self-awareness with someone else is both a result of intimacy and a creator of greater intimacy” (Lauer and Lauer, 2018, 119).
5. There is a difference between liking someone and loving them and between friendship and love. Love includes all the characteristics of friendship, plus passion and caring. There are different kinds of love (infatuation, empty, romantic, companionate, fatuous, and consummate) and different styles of lovers (erotic, ludic, storgic, manic, pragmatic, and agape). (See Lauer and Lauer, 2018, 140-143.)
6. People cohabit for various reasons, but cohabitation is not a good test for marriage. Cohabitation “brings no advantage to those who desire marriage” but brings “a higher risk for problems and breakups” (Lauer & Lauer, 2018, 150-153).
7. There are different types of marriages that are classified by lifestyle (polygamy, open, traditional, or egalitarian) and by the nature (strengths and weaknesses) of the relationship. (See Lauer & Lauer, 2018, 1277-183.)
8. Communication is both verbal and non-verbal and can become complicated because of all the encoding and decoding through individual ideas and feelings. “Satisfying communication is essential for a healthy marriage” (Lauer & Lauer, 2018, 206). A big part of good communication is self-disclosure.
9. “Power is an integral part of human relationships” because it brings “some sense of control over our lives” and “is important to our mental health” (Lauer & Lauer, 2018, 215). The way that power is used in an intimate relationship and how the two partners perceive its balance is “important to marital satisfaction” (216). A power struggle is basically a conflict, and conflict can have positive functions, such as bringing the conflict out into the open and clarifying issues. It can also “create and maintain an equitable balance of power” (221-222). Lauer and Lauer state that there are rules for good fighting (maintain perspective, develop tension outlets, avoid festering resentment, be sensitive to timing, communicate, be flexible and willing to compromise, attack the problem and not the person, and keep loving even though fighting) (229-232).
10. Crisis comes to every family in some way and at some time. It is the way we deal with the crisis, not the crisis itself, that determines our coping success. Some families struggle with crises that pile up before they can be dealt with appropriately, and it is the pileups that make the crises so difficult to handle.
I learned much more about marriage and family, but I wanted to particularly remember these things. I know that the family is the core unit of society and needs to be given priority in our lives. I know that we can strengthen our communities and nations by strengthening our own individual families.
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