Selecting a Life Partner from a Systems Theory Perspective - Essay Example

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Selecting a Life Partner from a Systems Theory Perspective Name University 8 March 2012 Introduction The relevance of systems theory to sociologists is frequently found in how it helps understand human behavior as a product of their systems, beginning with their immediate relationships, such as their families, and extending to their community, society, and nation (Parrish, 2010, p.203)…
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Selecting a Life Partner from a Systems Theory Perspective
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Selecting a Life Partner from a Systems Theory Perspective 8 March Introduction The relevance of systems theory to sociologists is frequently found in how it helps understand human behavior as a product of their systems, beginning with their immediate relationships, such as their families, and extending to their community, society, and nation (Parrish, 2010, p.203). For sociologists, systems theory provides a wide set of abstract concepts that helps interpret patterns of interfaces and relationships between individuals, groups, and bigger environments (Parrish, 2010, p.203). Systems theory can also help people make the right decisions in choosing a lifetime partner, because it will provide a way of seeing the fit between their subsystems and entire systems. This paper aims to apply the systems theory perspective in selecting a life partner. It starts with an overview of the systems theory and then applies this theory to the process of picking a life partner. Systems Theory A system is a combination of elements or subsystems that are interconnected and depend on each other (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2009, p.38). Each unit, such as families and other dyadic interactions, is seen as behaving in a predictable manner, if the relationships between its elements are recognized and understood (Lamanna & Riedmann, 2009, p.38). The parts of the system stand for “an interactive and interdependent relationship” (Parrish, 2010, p.204). Systems call for a relational pattern of interactions and outcomes (Parrish, 2010, p.206). Instead of following a linear relationship of cause and effect, a transactional relationship is more evident for systems, where causes and effects affect each other in a circular manner (Parrish, 2010, p.206). One of the basic concepts of systems theory is promoted by Max Wertheimer, who said that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” (King & Wertheimer, 2005, cited in Parrish, 2010, p.207). Boundaries define the limits of systems and subsystems. Family membership and other social alliances identify their systems and boundaries (Parrish, 2010, p.207). Some boundaries are given by roles, such as between parents and children, while others focus on relationships, such as families and neighbors (Parrish, 2010, p.207). Boundaries can differ according to firmness and looseness, while the permeability of boundaries can affect the level and extent of interaction between members of a given system and their external environment (Parrish, 2010, p.207). Too firm boundaries can result to isolation, while too loose boundaries can produce confusing roles and chaos (Parrish, 2010, p.207). Selecting a Life Partner from a Systems Theory Perspective Selecting a life partner is a process that systems theory can help explain and guide. The couple or life partners can be seen as belonging to several subsystems. For instance, they both belong to their families, cultures, and societies. If they share no cultural differences, differences in family background can affect their relationship. This is why it is important to find a partner, whose family values are similar to one another. For example, if the man wants a woman who can accept being house-bound for the sake of raising a family, a career-oriented woman will hardly be suitable for him, unless that woman will be willing to set aside her career goals for the first five or so years of her children’s lives. On the contrary, a strongly independent woman may look for a man who is not intimidated by her competitive nature. She will search for a man who veers away from traditional thinking and who will support her career ambitions, even if it means delaying having a family, or depending on a nanny to conduct child-rearing responsibilities that women stereotypically shoulder. Culture is also a strong system that can affect the process of selecting life partners. Cultures can have strong or loose boundaries when it comes to interracial marriages, for instance (Parrish, 2010, p.207). Those with strong boundaries will reject or will not support interracial marriages, for example. Traditional Chinese families, for instance, prefer their Chinese children to marry “pure” Chinese partners. They even practice arranged marriages with their friends or acquaintances to make sure that their children marry the right “kind.” Their cultural boundaries are strongly firm and tend to reject interactions with foreign cultures on matters that concern intimate relationships. On the one hand, this may seem like a form of racial discrimination with superiority attributed to Chinese culture and genes. On the other hand, this cultural practice of intracultural marriages may also be seen as a way of preserving traditional values and customs, by reducing exposure to foreign values and behaviors. Cultures with loose boundaries find interracial relationships as acceptable, on the contrary. For instance, many Americans see nothing wrong with finding Asian life partners. Some Americans even prefer Asian wives or husbands, because of the latter’s strong family values, where family is central to their existence. This means that with Asian partners, they will have a greater chance of having an intact family and avoid divorce, which often negatively affects the well-being of involved children. In addition, these cultures select partners through “love” and not through arranged marriages. For them, they want life partners whom they love, where love presents a strong bond of emotional interdependence (Lee & Brosziewski, 2009, p.141). This essay concentrates on the issue of love when selecting life partners. At present, some people believe that love is not the only ingredient in marriage, especially when it is related to romance. Having a family can be very demanding of time, energy and resources, and so romantic love alone cannot support a marriage. Instead, it is important to find a life partner who understands his/her partner’s immediate and long-term goals as individuals and as members of their family (Lee & Brosziewski, 2009, p.142). This includes sharing household tasks and responsibly and breaking gender norms and expectations. Selecting a life partner may also mean considering having permeable systems, where extended families are tapped to help take care of and raise their children. This is common for Asian and Latin American families that have extended families, where grandparents, as well as uncles and aunts, are directly involved in rearing their grandchildren and nieces/nephews, respectively. As a result, these subsystems influence each other and how they are coordinated and reach similar goals can affect the happiness of the partners with their marriage and family life. Thus, selecting a life partner also means marrying the partner’s family or clan, as well. Conclusion The systems theory helps people recognize that selecting life partners includes understanding the subsystems that shape them and the roles that these people want to or already take in their systems. It also means possibly combining diverse subsystems upon marriage or cohabitation. Sociologists can use systems theory to describe the arduous selection process for life partners. The same theory can also guide people in developing lasting relationships, by selecting partners whose subsystems they are willing to respect, or at least to tolerate, or at the most, to help them choose partners whose subsystems they are willing to love and to choose as part of their new system too. References Lamanna, M.A. & Riedmann, A. (2009). Relationships: Making choices in a diverse society. California: Wadsworth. Lee, D.B. & Brosziewski, A. (2009). Observing society: Meaning, communication, and social systems. New York: Cambria Press. Parrish, M. (2010). Social work perspectives on human behaviour. New York: Open University Press. Read More
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