Barriers to the termination of an intimate relationship : A behavioral analysis of married and living-together couples



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Recent research has hinted, that the very rules governing a marital relationship (specifically the marriage contract) may provide a barrier to couple satisfaction and potential source of distress. The problem solving behavior of an individual with his/her spouse has been shown to bear little resemblance to problem solving behavior with a stranger, suggesting that married dyads are likely to become more tolerant of discord simply because they are legally bound together. Perhaps intimate relationships without a legal bind encourage more facilltative couple interaction. To test this notion, twenty married and twenty living-together couples, equated for time together (6-30 months) and a number of demographic variables, were compared on three types of assessment measures: traditional self-report, behavioral self-report, and direct observation of problem solving behavior. Results indicated no difference between groups on the factor of couple adjustment/satisfaction. The only significant effect was scored on the Relationship Status Survey; living-together couples reported on the average fewer cognitive barriers to terminating the partnership. Further, couples (Irrespective of relationship type) perceiving multiple exit costs were more like to report their partnerships as less satisfactory with a lower ratio of pleasing to displeasing partner behaviors. These findings suggest that marriage per se Is not the culprit responsible for Increased discord among couples. Instead, It is more likely a factor of actual patterns of Interaction (how the partners behave toward each other and define their roles) that is predictive of satisfaction within an Intimate relationship.



Marriage, Relationships