I. Structural factors in conflict and dissolution
A. Gender differences
1. Differences in perceptions of relationship problems
a. Women report more problems in heterosexual relationships
Female dissatisfaction predicts dissolution better than male unhappiness
2. Women are more likely than men to initiate
marital separation and divorce
3. Possible explanations
a. Women have more of a relational orientation than men
Men and women have different relationship expectations and desires, and
heterosexual relationships better serve
to fulfill those of men
B. Relationship duration
1. General trends
a. Time that partners knew each other prior à more marital satisfaction
b. Relationship duration à more partner blame for negative events
Time spent together à more marital happiness
2. Possible explanations
“best fit” hypothesis – a linear decline in marital satisfaction, because:
1. Inevitable fading of passionate ‘high’ in early stages, before marriage
2. People marry for a “best fit”; changes will then reduce compatibility
b. U-shaped pattern
1. Initial decline of marital satisfaction followed by an increase
2. Closely associated with the arrival and departure of children
C. Presence of children
1. Negative correlation with marital satisfaction
2. Positive association with marital duration
D. Role strain
1. General trends
a. More women in the workforce
b. Traditional division of household labor has remained
c. Both partners are needed to support each other’s multiple roles
2. Demands of work and family cause gender roles to be more complex and less clearly defined than in the past
3. Leads to disagreements
over responsibilities for task completion and decision-making
4. Possible outcomes
1. More roles = more stress
2. Time and energy are scarce
b. Enhancement hypothesis
1. More roles = less stress
2. Disappointments in one area are compensated by success in another
3. Research favors this by showing: more roles à increased well-being
II. The attributional process during conflict and dissolution
A. The process of conflict and dissolution
1. Spouses trying
to juggle the demands of multiple roles are more likely to find themselves
with incompatible goals
2. Role of thoughts and beliefs in the process of conflict
3. 3 causal attributions
a. Attributional processes are more active during conflict than at other times
b. Self-serving bias
Disagreement about motives – who did what to whom
B. Negative attributional spiral
1. Attributions can produce differences in satisfaction
C. Differences between happy and unhappy couples
1. Relationship-enhancing attributions
2. Distress-maintaining attributions
2. Volatility can create an opportunity for unhappy partners to break
out of the trap of distressing maintaining
III. Responses to relationship conflict and dissatisfaction
A. 4 basic responses
1. Voice – actively trying to improve the relationship
2. Loyalty – passively waiting for things to improve
3. Neglect – passively allowing things to get worse
4. Exit – leaving the relationship
B. 2 dimensions
1. CONSTRUCTIVE ààààààà
(voice, loyalty) (exit, neglect)
2. ACTIVE ààààààà PASSIVE
(voice, exit) (loyalty, neglect)
C. “Good manners” model
1. More important to avoid destructive acts than to maximize constructive
2. Distressed couples: more negative communication, affect, and behavior
A four stage theory of relationship dissolution:
Essentially this phase involves thinking about the relationship problems,
determining whether they are “fixable” or
worth fixing; weighing the costs and benefits of alternative relationships; and eventually, facing the dilemma
Baxter (1986) reports eight classes of problems that may lead to relationship dissolution:
1. Desire for autonomy—Feel trapped
2. Lack of similarity
3. Lack of supportiveness
4. Lack of openness—more women
5. Failure to maintain loyalty/fidelity
6. Reduction in shared time
7. Absence of Equity—more men
8. Absence of romance—more women
In the dyadic stage the dissatisfied commence negotiations with their
partners. They present their cases to their
mates. Often, such conversations shake the dissatisfied person’s resolve. The costs of separation and divorce
may now loom greater than supposed. Reconciliation, withdrawal, and oscillation are characteristic of this
Four kinds of barriers that keep people penned in unhappy relationships:
1. Irretrievable investments
2. Social pressures
3. Available alternatives
4. Termination procedures—difficulty ending a relationship.
In the social phase, the couple must face the public and acknowledge
that their relationship has disintegrated. Their
families, children, friends, and workmates have a chance to say what they think about the breakup.
Usually men and women try to save face and place blame on their partners
for what happened.
Men may have a bit more trouble finding support than women.
In the grave dressing phase, both individuals begin to cope with and
recover from the breakup. This usually
involves making causal attributions about the breakup, public distribution of the breakup story, and formalizing
the breakup if necessary.
Coping with dissolution:
Initiator status: people who develop accounts that reflect well on them or that give them a sense of control should cope better with the end of a relationship. However, overall it only plays a minor role in coping.
Self-attributions of responsibility: If you see yourself as responsible for the breakup, this could maximize a sense of control – associated with better coping.
Blaming the partner for difficulties can be associated
with more difficulties in coping.
The emotional reaction after coping depends on the
amount of manifest vs. latent intimacy—termed facilitation. If the relationship
is low facilitation (high latent intimacy) then the breakup may be more
distressing—it seems emotionally tranquil but creates great distress when
Unexpected loss is more debilitating.
I. Theory of Social Penetration
Patterns of self disclosure:
1. Disclosure reciprocity— matching each other’s level of self-disclosure; Characterizes early stages of relationships.
2. In later stages of relationship, disclosure reciprocity declines.
“Quick Revelation Encounters:”
1. Stranger-on-the-train— disclose without concern for the long term consequences
2. Boom-or-bust— Excessive early self-disclosure with a person that you plan on continuing a relationship with.Need to love and affective exploder syndrome.
II. Gender Differences:
Differences in Self-Disclosure:
On the average, women self-disclose more than men.
The specific topic of discussion and the gender of the person to whom one is disclosing are important factors.
Females disclose information that is personal and feeling oriented and that may involve negative emotions. Males disclose information that is factual in nature and relatively neutral or positive in emotional tone.
instrumental vs. expressive communication.
Why men and women avoid disclosure:
Women are concerned about getting a negative reaction from the male or getting no reaction at all (unresponsiveness).
Males avoid disclosure when they feel that the female would be unable to help them solve the problem that they are worrying about.
Part of this difference in avoiding disclosure results from differences in the underlying motivation to disclose.
Who you’re disclosing to makes a difference:
For people of the same sex, the social norms of our society encourage intimacy between women but discourage it between men.
On the other hand, in opposite sex interactions, males are expected to take the initiative and women are expected to be more cautious in their response.
Communication Styles and Motives
Our schemas, past experience, gender stereotypes, attachment styles, love styles, etc., act as a lens through which we see the world.
Male’s world-- conversations are negotiations in which people try to achieve and maintain the upper hand if they can. Life is a contest, a struggle to preserve independence and avoid failure.
Female’s world-- conversations are negotiations for closeness in which people try to seek and give confirmation/validation and support, and to reach a consensus. Life is a community, a struggle to preserve intimacy and avoid isolation.
Intimacy and Independence
Differences in the way that the genders think about decision making.
When women try to initiate a discussion by asking, “What do you think?” men often think they are being asked to decide.
“Nags” and the Pursue - Withdraw Cycle
III. Nonverbal Communication:
“It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.”
Metacommunication— everything that goes on in communication that is beyond words— tone of voice, nonverbal behavior, etc.
As relationships endure, various aspects of meta-communication change.
Idea that women’s nonverbal skills are essential in the development of intimacy in a relationship, while men’s abilities to communicate nonverbally are critical for maintaining intimacy within an established relationship.
The Double Bind:
IV. Improving Communication:
1. Intent of communication: Few differences between satisfied and distressed
2. Impact of communication: Rate of negative impact is much higher for
3. Agenda Building: Cross-complaining for distressed vs. Validation
4. Negotiating an agreement: Counter-proposals in distresses vs. Negotiation
5. Mindreading: Distressed couples do it in a consistently negative
6. Metacommunication: Double-bind in distressed couples “knots” vs.
Consistency between nonverbal and verbal communication in non distressed.
7. Self-summarizing: Much more frequent in distressed couples— perseveration.
8. Dichotomous thinking: more in distressed couples
9. Musterbation: more in distressed couples
Essentially all of these concepts reflect how our attributions direct
our patterns of communication. Gender
stereotypes, attachment styles, love styles, past experience may lead us to make attributions in a particular
Arguing is an essential aspect of promoting intimacy