What are the Couple and Family Maps?
The couple and family maps are derived from Dr. David Olson’s research on the Circumplex Model. The maps
chart how each partner perceives closeness and flexibility in their couple
relationship and their family of origin.
- Closeness is defined
as the emotional bonding that couples and family members have toward one
- Flexibility is the
amount of change in leadership, role relationships, and relationship
The map is a 5×5 grid, consisting of balanced (white),
mid-range (light blue), and unbalanced (dark blue) squares. When a couple
answers the questions about the flexibility and closeness in their
relationship and family of origin, they are plotted on the grid. It is normal for individuals,
couples, and families to move throughout the map over time as they go through
life stages and/or face life stressors.
Why are the maps important?
These maps give you, the Facilitator, a look into how a couple
viewed their family growing up and compares it to how they view their couple
relationship now. This is important as individuals often tend to recreate or
reject the type of family system they grew up in. You might have couples talk
about what they want to repeat in their relationship and what they’d like to
do differently. In doing so, they may become more aware of how their
upbringing affects the patterns of their own relationship.
Balance is key to a healthy relationship.
Couples and families that fall within the balanced range (the
nine white squares in the middle) are considered the most functional and
healthy. As stated before, couples will move throughout the map over time, so
by receiving insight on where they fall on the map and why, they may be able
to anticipate how their relationship might change during different life
stages and events and prepare for them accordingly. Examples might include
increasing communication after the birth of a child, or being intentional
about spending quality time together when kids are older and the family is
pulled in many different directions. If the couple finds themselves in an
unbalanced range, it’s helpful to acknowledge that it is normal and often
temporary. You can use exercises from the Workbook for Couples to help the
couple take steps toward more balance.