The modern discourse on marriage holds that roles are shifting in many ways within the context of a romantic relationship. In the case of this study, speaking particularly on the subject of heterosexual romantic partnerships, the roles which are assumed by partners are often based on certain preconceptions regarding gender and the social and/or biological distinctions which are a function of gender. Likewise, partners may have certain expectations of a spouse which proceed from these proscribed gender roles or from their own familial experiences.
That said, it is increasingly an emphasis on discourses about marital satisfaction that these roles should be more fully explored rather than presumed. More egalitarian or complementary roles are emerging based on the premise that such dynamics promote more healthy and equal context through which both partners feel valued, respected and satisfied. The research brings us into confrontation also with refutations of this correlation such as that provided in the article by Amato & Booth (1995), where the authors find that "when wives adopt less traditional gender role attitudes, their perceived marital quality declines. On the other hand, when husbands adopt less traditional attitudes, their perceived marital quality increases. We find no evidence that changes in reported marital quality affect the gender role attitudes of either husbands or wives." (Amato & Booth, 1) This is to indicate that where gender roles and attitudes are concerned, the correlation to marital satisfaction may be detectible, but much disagreement or variation exists in terms of the nature of this correlation and how it can be used to predict satisfaction.
Effects of unresolved conflict on marital satisfaction and longevity
One of the most important ways to create a positive marital relationship is to promote proper conflict management. This is something which is learned over the course of one's marriage, with the inherency of conflict and difference of opinion arising through the challenge of everyday interaction. Our literature would suggest that as relational partners we must embrace conflict, as it can be a conduit through which solutions are generated and "wise trade-offs among competing objectives made." (Weiss and Hughes, 2005)
Research on marital success indicates that this is necessary if two people are to truly establish a real compatibility with one another. The nature of marriage and the sharing of everyday lives is such that conflict is inherent, and needs not be destructive to a marriage. Indeed, the failure to truly engage conflict when it occurs will lead to misdirected feelings of anger and hostility which can manifest in ultimately destructive ways. As Eggerichs (2004) warns, "every couple learns about daily conflict, which Solomon calls 'the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.'" (Eggerichs, 13)
Certainly, those couples who find themselves more habitually engaged in conflict than in harmonious and shared objectives may lack compatibility. And as the above section indicates, myriad signs should emerge through premarital courtship and interaction as a way of illustrating this compatibility or lack thereof. But for the couple with the normal, healthy and stable relationship, the text by Eggerichs warms that it is still eminently possible for conflict to grow out of proportion; for small disagreements to escalate into blowout shouting matches; for passing interaction to turn into a venting of mutual frustrations; or for compounding grievances to mount into overblown and hurtful statements.
Eggerichs warns that in many marital contexts, the way that we manage this conflict toward honest communication and mutual resolution will be tantamount to the way that feelings are protected and even buoyed in the approach toward resolution. Eggerichs warns that certain gender patterns will play into this conflict process, pointing out that "even the best relationships sometimes have conflicts on day-to-day issues. In the middle of a conflict with my wife/significant other, I am more likely to be feeling: a) that my wife/significant other doesn't respect me right now. b) that my wife/significant other doesn't love me right now. Not surprisingly, 81.5% chose 'a) that my wife . . . doesn't respect me right now." (Eggerichs, 58)
This feeling of being disrespected is both gender-loaded and a consequence of the often hurtful nature of conflict. Indeed, this difficult quality of conflict is that which often prevents couples from airing out sustained conflicts and grievances. However, it is in failing to engage these issues that couples drift apart and move toward the dissolution of marriages. To the perspective of this research, poor conflict management is a sure way to see that a marriage descends into misery and ends in divorce. By contrast, a willingness to address head-on and regularly those issues that may escalate into conflict will help to keep these conflicts in proportion, making a peaceable resolution to individual conflicts far more probable and a long-term framework for navigating conflicts on the whole.
Amato, P.R. & Booth, a. (2001). The legacy of parents' marital discord: consequences for children's marital quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(4), 627-638.
Eggerichs, E. (2004). Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs. Integrity Publishers.
Gunter, J.S. (2004). An Examination of the Dimensions of Commitment and Satisfaction Across Years Married. University of Oklahoma Graduate Facility.
Parker, S. (2009). Marital satisfaction and religiosity: A comparison of two measures of religiosity. Dissertation Abstracts. Temple University.
Robinson, B.A. (2009). U.S. Divorce Rates: For Various Faith Groups, Age groups…