Family Life Cycle and Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us (Part 6)


family Life Cycle
Just a friendly reminder that you might want to read these articles before you started reading this entry.

Family Life Cycle Theory (Reuben Hill, 1949): Stage 6: Families in Later Life

The last stage is the stage when the couple moves into the “grandparent” generation and possibly requires the assistance of their children, or to assist babysitting to their grandchildren. They also adjust their roles socially and with each other as they face each other’s physical decline and the changes in their social responsibility, such as retirement from work.

Many couples enter counseling at this stage because their adjustment to the changes in their roles is different. For example, the wife might develop a different social circle, after all, the children left home while the husband still maintains his career. By the time the husband also retires, they are in two different places in the expectations of their lives together. Or, the wife might continue to pursue the career while the husband enters the retirement stage. All of these role changes also means the household responsibilities and delegations requires re-negotiation.

Cedar Cove Couple: Olivia Lockhart & Jack Griffin
Olivia Lockhart and Jack Griffin met when Jack started to work in Cedar Cove. They are both divorced with the adult children. Olivia and Jach, throughout this series, both have to repair her relationship with her daughter Jordan who transitions to adulthood and marriage and then to parenthood. They both have also coached their children to become parents and to become a supportive role to be their children’s journey into the couple relationship and parenthood.

In the meantime, as they start their relationship together, they also go through the stages as a young couple. They have to re-define their boundaries with their friends, family, and their ex-spouses, and to respect them as a new couple. And to find their rules and expectations in their couple unit. Even though they are a new couple, many couples who have been married for many years needed to do so at this stage of their lives as they are re-negotiating the expectations and responsibilities in their relationship due to the changes of their physical condition and the residents in the household.

More problems:
Family Life Cycle theory describes a couple who goes through their family life together and the possible issues they will encounter. As a couple’s therapist, I often ask the couple to share with me their history together, from the time they met to the time they decided to call me. From their history, it helps me to understand what areas of their relationship might cause the stress that lead them to seek counseling.
However, the issue with the modern family is more complicated than what the theory has suggested: one man and one woman, planning their life together as if these stages suggested, and till death do us apart.

Let’s taking Olivia and Jack as an example. They are a couple who are going through the late stages of the family life cycle because of their ages and their relationship with their children. At the same time, they are also a couple who is going through the second stage of their relationship, which is to form the couple unit and boundary within the extended family system, and to define the expectations within the couple system.

Many couples have their first child even before they form their couple system because of the unplanned pregnancy. They have not yet established the couple system while they are adding in the parental responsibilities. The other commonly seen example is the blended family. While the couple is trying to defend their expectations with each other as a couple, they also have to build a relationship with the stepchildren their new extended family as well as the children’s other biological parents. To complicate things more, if the new couple has children from the previous relationships, they entered the stage with young children while co-parenting with their older children in another phase.

In spite of these complication, I found this theory tremendously helpful to understand the couples’ relationship history. It helps to see how the couples transit from one stage to another and whether they made the transition successfully. If not, it helps me and the couple to evaluate how have they tried to cope with the issues successfully or destructively. Even in the “complicated situation” such as divorce or blended family, the theory also helps me and the couple to see what are the needs for them to cope with being different stages in their relationship.


Original Work:

Cedar Cove Series by Debbie Macomber.

Family Life Cycle Theory by Rubern Hill (1949)


Cedar Cove: Family Life Cycle series

Cedar Cove to Couple Relationships (Prologue)

Family Life Cycle & Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us? (Part 1)

Family Life Cycle and Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us (Part 2)

Family Life Cycle and Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us (Part 3)

Family Life Cycle and Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us (Part 4)

Family Life Cycle and Couple Relationship: What Does Cedar Cove Teach Us (Part 5)




2 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *