ABSTRACT

Individuals or couples who seek consultation for marital problems often have a hidden or sometimes expressed hope that the therapy will change the spouse’s problem behavior. A clinician guided by Bowen theory broadens the lens from this narrow focus on the other to the reciprocal influences in the marital and nuclear family relationships. The factors that are brought into consideration in understanding marital functioning are the level of dependence and individuality, the patterns of emotional reactivity and thinking, the amount of anxiety and stress, and how the marriage manages the togetherness pressures and stress within the nuclear family. Bowen theory also opens the window beyond the nuclear family to examine the reciprocal influences between the multigenerational families and the husband and wife. How the multigenerational members relate to one another and how each spouse relates to his or her parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins affects how the husband and wife relate to each other. The aim of this chapter is to examine the influence of intergenerational fusion and cutoff on marital functioning. Murray Bowen’s family systems theory (Bowen, 1978; Kerr and Bowen, 1988; Papero, 1990) provides the theoretical framework for this chapter The author presents his understanding of parent-child fusion as a prelude and backdrop to marriage, the effects of intergenerational fusion and cutoff on marriage, and the elements of addressing intergenerational cutoff in clinical work.