Gay/Lesbian Studies - Marriage Issues Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

61). In principle, adults tend to be drawn to potential romantic partners at least partly because part of the so-called chemistry between them reflects familiar aspects of their psychological pasts. Therefore, as pertains to marital communication issues, they are quite frequently direct consequences of the initial choice of partner more than anything else.

When researchers examine the specific communication issues arising within unhappy marriages and other committed intimate relationships, one crucial distinction that emerges is that the tonal quality that characterizes communications in relationships is far more significant than any other variable (Cole, p.72; Rokach, Cohen, & Dreman, pp. 55-57; Tyre & Pierce, p.64). In that regard, it was particularly illustrative that so many happy couples negotiated similar marital issues and stresses (financial, child-rearing, jealousy, infidelity, etc.) that unhappy couples blamed for the deterioration of their marriages and relationships. Generally, marital outcome was determined not by the presence or absence of significantly stressful life events and conflicts that arise within families. Instead, what mattered most was the way that partners communicated over these concerns (Rokach, Cohen, & Dreman, pp.56). Even where couples require professional intervention to promote healthier communications, those results are largely successful, with one exception (Stanley, Markman, & Whitton, p.659).

More particularly, one very specific indicator of relationships likely to fail emerged time and again in similar studies. Namely, partners whose interpersonal communication exchanges exhibited contempt for each other (defined as displaying signs of viewing one's partner as beneath them and of no longer caring about what one's partner had to say) have the worst prognosis for salvaging their relationship (Cole, p.72; Fillion, p.17). Similarly, numerous researchers have documented the comparative difficulty of effective intervention through counseling and relationship therapy once either partner within a couple has reached that stage of disillusionment with the other

Stanley, Markman, & Whitton, p.659).

Gender-based differences in conversational styles and expectations have also been offered as primary causes of communication problems in marriage. However, both the fact that same-gender couples exhibit identical issues (Cloud, p.80) and the fact that many traditional married couples communicate more effectively and without problems that damage the relationship would only seem to further indicate that gender differences are not responsible in most instances.


In all likelihood, increased divorce rates are more attributable to positive changes in American society in the last century. Women are no longer necessarily dependent on a husband for economic survival because they now enjoy all of the same fundamental rights and privileges as men. Similarly, divorce is no longer associated with shame as it once was. Chances are, divorce increased mainly because unhappy contemporary couples may be less inclined to continue a marriage of appearances.

The research confirmed the crucial importance of inter-spousal communication partly by distinguishing communication issues in marriage from other purported reasons often given to explain divorce. Whereas both happily married and unhappy (or divorced/divorcing) couples often share similar life stresses and relationship issues, the research revealed that they communicate very differently over those issues. In that regard, the single most important determinant of the state (and prognosis) of relationships was revealed to be contemptuous communication toward either spouse by the other.

This research ruled out the main alternate explanations proposed for the apparent significance of communication issues in relation to prospects for long-term marital (and nontraditional committed intimate relationship) happiness and viability. Natural predisposition toward specific types of individuals as potential partners manifests itself in attraction to negative communication behaviors by virtue of the repetition compulsion.

Explanations based on gender differences were contradicted by observations of communication dynamics among same-sex relationships. Ultimately, the research confirmed the hypotheses and demonstrated the tremendous importance of communication in marriage.


1. Cloud, John. "Are Gay Relationships Different?" Time Vo. 171 No. 4 (28 Jan. 2008):78-80.

2. Cole, Diane. "Divorceproof Your Marriage." U.S. News & World Report 141.24 (25 Dec. 2006): 72-72. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

3. Fillion, Kate. "KATE FILLION TALKS to MARK O'CONNELL." Maclean's 121.30/31 (04 Aug. 2008): 15-17. Academic Search Premier. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

4. McGinn, Daniel. "Marriage by the Numbers." Newsweek (05 Jun. 2006):40-48. 5. Rokach, Rachel, Orna Cohen, and Solly Dreman. "Triggers and Fuses in Late Divorce:

The Role of Short-Term Crises vs. Ongoing Frustration on Marital Break-Up."

Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 40.3/4 (Feb. 2004): 41-61. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

6. Segrin, Chris, and Melissa Taylor.. "A Social Cognitive Analysis of the Effects of Parental Divorce on Premarital Couples' Communication Skills." Journal of Divorce & Remarriage 46.1/2 (Dec. 2006): 57-83. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

7. Stanley, Scott M., Howard J. Markman, and Sarah W. Whitton. "Communication, Conflict, and Commitment: Insights on the Foundations of Relationship Success from a National Survey." Family Process 41.4 (Winter2002 2002): 659. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

8. Stanley, Scott M., et al. "Community-Based Premarital Prevention: Clergy and Lay Leaders on the Front Lines." Family Relations 50.1 (Jan. 2001): 67-76. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

9. Tyre, Peg, and Ellise Pierce. "Giving Lessons in Love." Newsweek 139.7 (18 Feb. 2002): 64. Academic Search Premier. Retrieved 17 Jan. 2009 from EBSCO at

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