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Marriage Essay, Research Paper

The Cause For Divorce? The institution of marriage is a highly discussed and commercialized topic. Everywhere, there are books, seminars, workshops, and articles on ?how to better your marriage’, ?the destruction of the family’, etc. The rising divorce rate has caused people to take a second look at their relationships, and think twice about getting married. A study showed that newly married couples run a forty-percent risk of future divorce. People ask why. Why aren’t our relationships working anymore? Why is our love not lasting? And many fingers are pointed to lack of communication. A study appeared in the Family Relations Journal, 1993, about the five things good marriages have in common. Researchers contacted 15 couples who had been married for an average of forty years, and were declared to have ideal marriages. In- depth interviews were conducted with the couples, and they came up with the following results. 1. Intimacy 2. Communication 3. Commitment 4. Congruence 5. Religious Orientation They found that all of the couples had positive communication skills. They listened to each other’s point-of-view, feelings, and thoughts. Because of this, they were able to avoid conflicts and resolve difficulties more easily. Couples with more effective communication skills had higher levels of intimacy. In a recent survey, 100 divorce lawyers were asked the question, “what’s the major cause of divorce in North American marriages?” All 100 lawyers agreed that a break-down in marital communication was the leading cause of divorce. Proverbs 13:17 says that it takes communication to have a successful, satisfying marriage. Therapists rate poor communication as having the most damaging effects on marital relationships. The evidence proves, unanimously, that communication plays a large part in lasting relationships. Not Merely ?Words’ or ?Talk’ The root word in communication is communion. To communicate isn’t to merely pass along information, but to draw another into union. True conversation is an interpenetration of worlds, a genuine intercourse of souls It relieves us from the pressures of everyday activity and decision-making, opening us up to undisclosed levels of our experiences. Every meaningful relationship requires significant communication. Communicating ? receiving a message ? isn’t through words alone. Communication happens on many different levels. A smile, handshake, glance, or the slamming of a door are all examples of nonverbal behavior that sends a message. Every message has at least three aspects ? the report aspect, the command aspect, and the context aspect The report aspect consists of the actual meaning of the words, the content of the message ? what is literally asked for, reported, etc. The command aspect indicates how the message is supposed to be heard. The intentions may be suggested by tone of voice, volume, or by nonverbal behavior. The context aspect is determined by the who/where factor. For instance, if a lifeguard yells “I’ll save you” to a drowning boy, that boy can safely assume that the lifeguard means to pull him out of the water. Yet, if a priest says “I’ll save you,” the listener can assume that he means to help him become a better Christian. In many instances, the message sent is not the message received. Freud has demonstrated that people are motivated by unconscious factors. An individual reacts to a message according to his own perception of its nature. Often the message is misunderstood because the sender and the receiver interpret it in terms of quite different contexts. The Problem is We’re Not Listening There are two different ways in which communication between individuals breaks down. The absence of clear and workable communication almost always involves both parties. The first type of breakdown occurs when the message sent is not the message received, as was pointed out earlier. This problem occurs because words have so many definitions. The message could have several possible meanings: the ?meaning’ is therefore dependant on personal interpretation. Also, each word has emotional content to the listener. Words can elicit responses of hate, fear, anxiety, or avoidance. For example, the word ?mother’ is not merely its definition ? female parent ? but has a different emotional response to everyone. The second type of breakdown is a physical breakdown. The spouses speak to each other, but neither ?hears’ what the other is saying. This failure is often a result of a lifetime of ?non-listening’. This can develop between spouses after they have been fighting for several months or years. Both spouses are on the defensive, and as soon as one speaks, the other starts mentally preparing a defense for the anticipated attack. Their mind is concentrating on what the reply will be, rather than on what is being said. The static of our preconceived ideas are working while we listen, so we hear not what is said, but what we are prepared to hear. Communication requires dialogue. Unless you enjoy talking to yourself, it takes at least two to communicate. Yet, most of us are constantly finding ourselves engaging in monologues. A renowned philosopher, Martin Buber, was concerned with human monologue/dialogue He wrote of different types of dialogue: Technical dialogue, in which we give information ? requiring no feeling ? and it is received and acted upon. Monologue disguised as dialogue, where one individual speaks to the total indifference of the other. He illustrated this with what he called lover’s talk, in which both parties alike enjoy their own glorious souls and precious experience. True dialogue, when the speaker has the other person’s individuality and special needs in mind, and the listener is tuned into the words. Words of Love A study done at a University showed that many people found it threatening to communicate love. What appeared on the surface to be a simple, natural thing was actually more difficult than imagined. People felt ill at ease, awkward, even embarrassed by expressing their love. These results make it obvious why we hear the voice of love so seldom and why, when it is heard, it is spoken so softly and shyly. Even though we have learned that unexpressed love is the greatest cause of our sorrow and regrets, this still seems to remain true. Loving and intimate communication is learned in childhood. Children learn language, and how to speak, from communication in their environment. We either hear the verbal symbols to relay our love, or we don’t. But adults who have not grown up amongst intimacy find it harder to be intimate in their future relationships. Eric Berne, an author noted for his work in transactional analysis, was concerned with bringing the people in our society together again in intimacy. He said that the many roles and games we play are breaking down communication, distancing us from each other and destroying any possibility of becoming intimate with caring friends or lovers. Among couples having marital difficulties, in place of conversation, we have a talking game in which a power struggle is the focus. Sharing, so vital to loving communication, stops when you sense the other person is not listening or caring. Society is mainly distancing, destroying, intimidating, disappointing, degrading, devaluing, and we don’t know how to change this. Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D., gives ten things to do to make the connection in a loving relationship: Tell me often that you love me through talk, actions, and gestures. Compliment and reassure me. Appreciate me and my accomplishments. Let me know when you are feeling low, lonely, or misunderstood. Express your joyous and happy thoughts and feelings. Respond to me. Don’t invalidate me or what I feel, by saying it’s insignificant or not real. Listen to me without judgement or preconception. Touch, hold, and hug me. Respect my silences. Show public affirmations of love. Partnership doesn’t involve keeping score, giving tit for tat, or you-scratch-my- back-I’ll-scratch-yours mentality. It involves being flexible, giving and taking, and sharing. The measure of a good relationship is in how it encourages optimal intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. A good marriage can accommodate anger. What can cause destruction in a marriage is letting that anger get out of control ? or, even worse, forbidding its expression. Thomas Moore, a leading lecturer and writer, says we should shift our attention from communication to sharing and expressing intimacy. Studies have shown that it is the “process of sharing” with a spouse that accounts for a higher-than-average degree of marital satisfaction. Poor communication tends only to breed more of the same. Demand-Withdraw in Marital Communication In their studies, Geiss and O’Leary, 1981, found that one important source of marital distress is poor or absent communication. Many techniques ? or ?games’ ? are used to avoid conversation. Christensen and his colleagues ( Heavey, Layne, & Christensen, 1993.) have demonstrated the use of one specific kind of communication they referred to as demand-withdraw communication. Here, one partner tries to engage the other into discussing an issue by criticizing, complaining, or suggesting change; the other tries to end the conversation by avoiding the topic, changing the subject, remaining silent, or leaving the room. They have proven that demand- withdraw interaction is identified and reported by couples and has negative effects on relationships Research has also suggested that demand-withdraw roles are related to gender. In 60 percent of couples, the wives demand and the husbands withdraw. In 30 percent of couples, the situation is reversed. In 10 percent, the demand and withdraw is practiced equally. Christensen and Heavey (1990) have explained two theories to account for these gender differences, one based on individual differences and another based on social structures. According to the theories based on individual differences, males and females have different psychological characteristics, possibly due to socialization and/or physiology, that cause the development of demand-withdraw communication patterns. These differences may be caused by the socialization process that teaches women to be devoted and men to be self-reliant. This would lead to variations in desired levels of intimacy between men and women. According to Christensen, demand-withdraw interaction “occurs, in part, when partners have different needs and preferences for intimacy and independence, and when they have insufficient skills to negotiate these differences.” The differences may also be biological. Women may be less stimulated during conflict than men, creating different consequences for the same events, with men finding conflict more punishing.(Christensen & Heavey, 1990; Levenson, 1988.) In contrast, the theory based on social structures suggests that demand- withdraw roles are determined by the levels of power maintained in relationships between men and women. Jacobsen (1983,1989) and others have suggested that men benefit more from the traditional family structure than women. This is because women are typically responsible for the household and child-care tasks. As a result, men are motivated to maintain the roles, and women are motivated to change it. Because of their different motivations, women demand in order to bring about change, and men withdraw in order to avoid it. Christensen and Heavey (1990, 1993) tested the individual differences and social structure theories. Both of the self-report and observational results supported the social structure model over the individual differences model. During discussions of a wife-generated topic, she was the demander and her husband withdrew. During discussions of a husband-generated topic, he demanded, and she withdrew. These data suggest that gender differences in demand-withdraw roles may be due to the power dynamics in marital relationships. The spouse with the most to gain by maintaining the status quo is likely to withdraw, and the discontented spouse demands change. The status quo in marriage generally tends to favor men, so men will appear most often as withdrawers. Men and Women – Are They Really the Same Species? We mistakenly assume that if our partners love and care for us that they will naturally react and behave in certain ways ? the ways we react and behave when we love someone. This sets us up for disappointment. Society has forgotten that men and women are different. As a result, our relationships are filled with unnecessary friction and conflict. A little girl, when she’s born, develops linguistic skills much faster and is much more proficient in conversation than little boys. The fact is that women talk more than men. The average man talks about 20,000 words a day, whereas the average woman talks 30,000. Deborah Tannen, a sociolinguist and author, studied the differences between the communication styles of men and women. Her research showed that the differences go far beyond mere socialization, and appear to be inherent in the basic make up of each sex. Tannen studied videotapes another researcher had made of best friends asked to have a conversation together. In contrast to the girls, the boys were extremely uncomfortable with this request. Females in all age groups would face each other and immediately begin talking, eventually ending up discussing their problems. Males, on the other hand, sat parallel one another, and would jump from topic to topic ? centered around a time when they would do something together. Tannen observed that, “For males, conversation is the way you negotiate your status in the group and keep people from pushing you around; you use talk to preserve your independence. Females use conversation to negotiate closeness and intimacy; talk is the essence of intimacy, so being friends means sitting and talking. For men, activities, doing things together, are central. Just sitting and talking is not an essential part of their friendships.” These observations show us potential problems when men and women communicate. Women create feelings of closeness by conversing with friends and lovers. Men don’t use communication in this way, so they do not comprehend why their women are continually talking. Eventually, many men just tune their women out. The ever present image of the housewife talking to her husband while his head is buried in a newspaper comes to mind. Women’s most frequent complaint about their husbands or lovers is that “men don’t listen”. He listens to her until he has the just of what she is talking about, and then starts offering solutions; she wants empathy, he thinks she wants solutions. Tannen notes that men are confused by the many ways in which women use communication to be intimate with others. For women, talking about troubles is the essence of connection. Men, however, hear troubles as a request for advice, so they respond with a solution. When a man offers this kind of information, the woman often feels as if he is trying to invalidate her feelings, or cut her off. In his eyes, he is being supportive, because men don’t talk about their troubles unless they want a solution. He does not realize that his woman was simply trying to establish a certain level of intimacy with him ? inviting him to share himself with her. An interesting pattern emerges from these essential differences of approach: the woman, wanting closeness and intimacy with her man, talks to him about her problems. She seeks the same response that she would receive from another female. The man, however, hears the conversation as a request for advice, not intimacy. He considers the problem and offers a solution, or dismisses the issue. When his woman continues to go on about the same concerns, not considering his advice, he becomes confused and eventually angry. He begins to believe that she is an expert at talking about nothing. The woman begins to feel that her man doesn’t care about her because he won’t talk to her intimately. Tannen has found that human males give orders as a way of gaining social status. They give orders to maintain their dominance, not because they necessarily needed the thing done. This dynamic is important to remember when looking at another major area of miscommunication between men and women. Women cannot understand the resistance men seem to have when asked for assistance or consideration of some kind or another. Women must understand that , for men, doing what they’re asked means they have lost status in that relationship. What a woman might see as a simple request, is seen to the man as an attempt to manipulate him into a ?one-down’ position. Men’s most frequent complaint about their wives or lovers is that “women just try to change them”. When a woman loves a man she feels responsible for his growing and tries to help him improve. She feels she is being nurturing, while he feels he’s being controlled. Instead, he wants acceptance. The offering of help to a woman makes her feel loved and cherished, it makes a man feel incompetent, weak and unloved. Men and women seldom mean the same things even when they use the same words. To fully express their feelings, women assume poetic licence to use various metaphors and generalizations. Men mistakenly take these expressions literally. Because they misunderstood the intended meaning, they commonly react unsupportive. She is not merely generalizing, but asking for a specific support. She doesn’t directly ask because, to her, dramatic language implies the request, so bluntly asking is unnecessary. A man’s literal translation leads him to judge and invalidate his partners feelings. Tannen makes the point that both sexes need to understand the inherent differences in their communication styles so that they don’t expect the impossible. Women must learn that the intimate talk with their girlfriends should remain just that. Trying to turn your man into a ?girlfriend’ will usually fail, because men don’t create feelings of closeness in that way. Men, too can understand that when their woman is talking, she is attempting to connect to him ? she’s not just talking to talk, nor trying to readjust the status of their relationship. By sharing more of himself, he shows her that he’s not pushing her away; that he does indeed love her and want to be close to her. Perhaps if men stopped expecting women to communicate like men, and women stopped trying to get men to communicate like women, we would have enough energy left over to appreciate how each sex compliments the other in a wonderful way.


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