In the past few decades, divorces have become much more common than they traditionally were. Lack of communication has been identified by psychologists, marriage counselors, and clergy members as the main reason why families end in divorce. The last-reported U.S. divorce rate for a calendar year, available as of May, 2005, was .38% divorces per capita per year (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). Since every divorce involves two people, the percentage becomes somewhat more meaningful if you double it; for example, .74% of the entire population gets divorced every year (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). This paper will first analyze the divorce statistics in the United States, along with a discussion of the issue of communication as it relates to the reasons behind divorce, family breakups, conflict in marriage caused by different cultures, lack of friendship in a marriage, and what can be done to salvage a marriage before it ends in divorce. It will conclude with a summary of my personal thoughts and insights on improving my own interpersonal communication.
Research indicates that although the divorce rate in the United States appears to be very high, this statistic has actually decreased in comparison to recent years. For example, in 1991, the divorce rate was almost 10% higher, at .47% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). In 1998, the divorce .42%, and in 2001, .40% (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). Thus, it does appear that the divorce rate in the United States is decreasing slowly. The total number of U.S. divorces reported finalized annually was 957,200 in 2000, 944,317 in 1999, and 947,384 in 1998 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). The total number of U.S. marriages reported celebrated annually are 2,355,005 in 2000, 2,366,623 in 1999, and 2,267,854 in 1998 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2005). An examination of these statistics reveals that the divorce rate is very high in comparison to the amount of marriages. It has often been reported that 50% of the proportion of marriages taking place right now that will eventually divorce, which has since been revised downward to roughly 43% by the National Center for Health Statistics but was moved back up to around 50% by the Census Bureau in 2002.
Communication in a marriage is very important, and the lack of it has been proven as one of the main causes of divorce. Research indicates that bonds of communication between spouses can become weaker due to reasons such as feeling misunderstood or being taken advantage of in a relationship; lack of accordance with your partner; your partner dominates you at all the time; if you feel that whatever you say is misinterpreted and not taken as you meant it; and if you find yourself weak and while confronting your partner. Other causes leading to a marriage break up are suspecting character or moral flaws in your partner, and accusing them of your suspicions; an aversion to have sexual relations with your partner; a fear that your significant other is being disloyal, deceptive or misleading you; and either your partner or you or both of you find jealous, malice, hatred or envy for each other. Another strong indication of lack of communication in a marriage occurs when you find your relations are worsened and fighting increases.
A lack of communication often leads to persistent misunderstandings between couples, which in turn leads to psychological separation and ultimately divorce. This results in months or years of increasing stress, frustration, distrust, declining respect, ineffective communication, and disillusionment between mates debilitate tender marriage bonds. However, there are methods that one can use to attempt to heal the marriage, including counseling and increased, effective communication. Seeing a counselor about relationship definitely has its benefits, as a counselor can sometimes help both partners to identify the situations that have caused misunderstanding and disagreements and ask them to modify their thinking processes. Unfortunately, counseling cannot always easily help them in eliminating the inner cause, and the counseling process can be quite uncomfortable and challenging. One spouse may resist any counseling attempts, making it a one-sided intervention offering little real help in changing the relationship for the better.
Families of today break up for communication related factors, due to the fact that marriage today is far more complex than in earlier times. In the 1950s and earlier, roles for men and women were clearly defined, and each partner knew what was expected of him or her (Dreyfus, 2002). People referred to men's work and women's work, and if each partner filled those explicit expectations, there was a reasonably good chance that the marriage would endure (Dreyfus, 2002). Men were supposed to be strong, silent, competent, unemotional, problem-solvers, good providers, handy around the house and protectors. Women were supposed to be good cooks, competent housekeepers, seamstresses, social, religious and nurturers. As a result, men and women cut each other a great deal of slack in other areas, so long as each played by the prescribed rules and played their socially defined roles (Dreyfus, 2002). With the technological evolution, the women's movement and increased life expectancy, came a profound change in these static, traditional roles (Dreyfus, 2002).
As a result of these advances, families relied more upon hired domestic help in the form of housekeepers, caregivers and day care to fulfill many of the customary roles. Marriage began to take on a different meaning and serve a different purpose than was traditionally the case (Dreyfus, 2002). It then became extremely important to be friends in a marriage. Friendship in a marriage is necessary because no marriage can exist based on physical attraction alone. Friendship leads to a deeper relationship in which both spouses are comfortable with each other and generally like the other as a person. Research indicates that a strong friendship in a marriage depends on communication, intimacy, relating, compromise, negotiation and understanding. Married couples must be able to negotiate in the living room and make love in the bedroom, and be skilled at both (Dreyfus, 2002). Expectations in loving have similarly changed. Since love-making is no longer exclusively for the purpose of procreation, no longer just for a man's pleasure, and it is no longer expected that men be more knowledgeable and experienced then women, then couples expect more from one another, requiring greater communications between them (Dreyfus, 2002).
Psychologist Dr. Howard Markman at the University of Denver believes that "Love and commitment to the relationship are necessary for a good marriage, but they are not enough. What are needed, on top of that, are skills in effective communication and how to handle conflict (Dreyfus, 2002)." Dr. Markman, along with Dr. Clifford Notarius of Catholic University of America, studied 135 about-to-be-married couples. "How you handle conflict is the single most important predictor of whether your marriage will survive," according to Dr. Markman (Dreyfus, 2002). These researchers found that certain behavior patterns usually signaled an impending collapse in the marriage. For example, when either partner withdraws from conflict, this tends to escalate conflict in the face of disagreement and the inability to stop a fight before it gets ugly. Research indicates that although conflict in marriage is inevitable, how it is dealt with is the important issue.
Couples often go into marriage with idealistic notions of what marriage is all about. These ideas are handed down from generation to generation or gleaned from popular magazines, TV shows, or simply conjured from their own fantasies of what they would like (Dreyfus, 2002). Each individual should make clear what their explicit and implicit expectations are and clarify these expectations such that they are clearly understood by one another (Dreyfus, 2002). Where there are discrepancies, a mutually satisfying compromise must be reached (Dreyfus, 2002). Sometimes these discrepancies are caused by different cultures in a marriage. Marrying someone from another culture can cause marriage conflicts because one person may not understand the other from a cultural point-of-view. Different cultures have different traditions, different conceptions of marriage, and different roles expected of the man or woman. A person from a traditionally submissive culture may not have a problem with a dominating mate. For example, a person born in a dominant culture may not understand that it is normally accepted to be more submissive, and as a result, this may cause fights. The person may feel that they are being wrongly treated, when in actuality, the other spouse does not understand the cultural difference and expects them to act another way. Family traditions may be different, causing stress between the spouses parents, which can also affect the marriage.
In the case of a culture conflict, communication is still cited as the most important factor leading to divorce. Being able to articulate thoughts and being certain that the listener understands what you wish to say takes considerable practice. In other words, often we believe we are saying one thing, while the listener is hearing something entirely different (Dreyfus, 2002). The listener often is responding to either what they believed you to say or their…