Research Paper: Factors Predicting Marital Success or Failure

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¶ … Predicting Marital Success or Failure

Marriage and marital success is an issue that has dominated debate in the counseling and research field for quite a long period of time. For a while now, researchers and counselors have sought answers to questions that seek to establish the reason why some marriages are successful while others are not. In that regard, it can be noted that there are many factors that impact on the success or failure of relationships and marriages. In this text, I highlight some of the factors that are deemed to be predictors of marital success or failure.

Factors Predicting Marital Success or Failure

What triggers all those unhealthy arguments and troubles in marriages? What causes marriages that seemed successful at first to eventually crumble or disintegrate? According to Clinton and Stacy (2006), some of the things more often than not blamed for friction as well as trouble in most marriages include but are not in any way limited to "crowded schedules, money pressures, communication problems, and midlife crises." While it is true that some of these things do actually bring about a dissociation of sorts in marriages, there has to be some key predictors to a successful of failing marriage. Gottman (2007) notes that today, it has become commonplace for marriages to dissociate. In his own words, the author concludes that given such a disturbing trend, "it becomes more crucial than ever to find an answer." In a bid to establish what exactly triggers marital failure, Gottman (2007) comes up with four warning signs that he christens "the four horsemen of the apocalypse." The warning signs in this case are given by the author as defensiveness, contempt, stonewalling, criticism and contempt (Gottman, 2007).

When it comes to criticism, the same is characterized by one partner's constant attack on the other partner's character as well as personality as opposed to zooming in on the unwanted behaviors that trigger differences. According to the author, in this case, things begin to tumble down when one partner feels that either their complaints are being ignored or that the other party just keeps repeating the offending habit intentionally. This in the end worsens the situation as complaints become more commonplace. Thus each complain ends up being laced with other grievances that went unresolved in the past and eventually one or both partners start to blame or criticize each others personality while totally disregarding the particular action that brought about the argument in the first place. In Gottman's (2007) opinion, criticism as a warning sign may in a general way be occasioned by personal attacks or blaming.

Regarding contempt as a factor predicting marital failure, Gottman (2007) notes that the same involves one partner being insulting to the other. In most cases, the purpose of contempt is to bring down the other partner's sense of self by openly disrespecting him or her. Thus contempt may be occasioned by verbal abuse and/or name calling, use of mockery and/or sarcasm and the use of hostile humor. As an indicator of the damage contempt occasions to a marriage, Eggerichs (2004) is of the opinion that "no husband feels fond feelings of affection and love in his heart when he believes his wife has contempt for who he is as a human being." The reverse can also be said to be true.

The third warning sign that could be an indicator of marital failure is defensiveness. In Gottman's (2007) opinion, defensiveness is more often than not a function of a besieged feeling. This according to the author is indeed what makes defensiveness as a warning sign so "destructive." The various signs of defensiveness here include but are not in any way limited to denial of responsibility, looking for scapegoats (or constantly making excuses for shortcomings) and cross-complaining in which case one partner overrides the other partner's complaint with his or her own complaint.

The last predictor to marital failure in this case is stonewalling. Here, stonewalling may be characterized by the refusal of one partner to respond. It is important to note that when it comes to stonewalling, an occasional instance of the same can in fact benefit a marriage. However, stonewalling becomes destructive when it starts being regarded a typical response to marital conflict. When utilized on a regular basis as a way to avoid conflict, the same triggers a disconnect of sorts between partners. Stonewalling is more often than not characterized by one partner removing him or herself physically from an argument, switching subjects or maintaining of stony silence.

In regard to the above predictors to marital failure, it is important to note that at some point in marriage, couples may engage in such behaviors either consciously or subconsciously. These warning signs however lead to marital failure when they are allowed permanent residence in marriages. As a matter of fact, when the presence of these warning signs becomes chronic, the marriage is almost certainly headed for a dead end. With that in mind, it could be prudent for couples to come up with strategies of dealing with these 'four horsemen' before they occasion irreparable marital damage.

As Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010) note, "family researchers have found numerous premarital factors to be important in predicting later marital happiness and satisfaction." The authors in this give these predictors as background factors, personality factors and relationship factors. In a way, all these factors play a critical role in predicting marital success or failure.

Regarding background factors, it is important to note that though often overlooked, age at marriage is in most cases critical. In their submission, Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010) are of the opinion that "people who marry young are at greater risk of seeing their marriages fail." However, it can be noted that in most cases, the high likelihood of marital failure amongst those who marry young is in itself a function of several other key factors. For instance, one of the factors that may contribute to such failure is the impulsivity and immaturity evident in most young marriages. Further, Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010) are of the opinion that in most cases, when individuals enter or settle into young marriages, they may be forced to make sacrifices when it comes to education. This in itself impairs educational attainment which in most cases has a direct impact on an individual's chances of success either at the economic or occupational front. Such occurrences may in one way or the other trigger or worsen marital stress. Cheal (2008) is also of the opinion that those who choose to settle in marriages at an older age in most instances tend to be rather "mature and therefore are better able to cope with adjustments required of marriage."

It is also important to note that in a special way, education level has an actual impact on marital success. According to Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010), an individual's level of education enables the said individual to access additional resources which may be utilized in the execution of marital roles and duties. The authors in this case identify these additional resources as status, insight or income. Cheal (2008) is yet another author who views minimal education as a trigger of marital instability. Indeed, in the author's own opinion, couples who happen to be more educated face a significantly lower risk of marital dissolution.

Further, marital outcomes (either failure or success) may be shaped by the couple's religiousness. In Cheal's (2008) opinion, "religious observance is associated with marital durability, whereas not attending religious services is associated with greater likelihood of marital dissolution." This is an observance further reinforced by Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010) who feel that when couples are highly religious (more so the wives), chances of the marriage union being strengthened even further are greatly enhanced.

Next, parental divorce has also been cited as yet another factor predicting marriage success or failure. According to Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010), the divorce of an individual's parents may have two effects on the affected individual in relation to their view of marriage. To begin with, such an individual may either avoid marriage completely or marry with the conviction that they will try their level best to avoid the mistakes their parents did. In that regard, Strong, DeVault and Cohen (2010) point out that an individual who grows up in a household where parents are divorced faces a higher risk of marital dissolution than an individual who grows up in a household where his or her parents are united in marriage.

When it comes to personality factors, it is important to note that they too might have an impact on marital outcomes (probability of marital success or failure). When individuals marry, they bring on board a wide range of early experiences, personal histories that are rather unique from those of their spouses, differing preferences and habits, different values and attitudes etc. In one way or the other, each couple's personality does indeed have a real impact on both how they relate with the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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