More than Communication
Researchers have long attempted to discover what predicts marital satisfaction. This heightened interest may have something to do with marriage divorce rates, which may be getting better. Evidence suggests that millennials are doing better with their marriages than their parents. Researchers are not able to describe a process through which dual-earner couples support marital satisfaction, but they suggested they have suggested a major component involved in marital satisfaction was the amount of time couples spent together. Recent work clarifies that communication is a first step, but any intervention in marriage must improve problem solving and increasing dyadic capacities are the goal. The researchers may have missed the inferences suggested by the subtle differences in how men and women report time spent together. In the seminal Kingston & Nock study (1987), women reported more time together with their spouses on homemaking, while men reported more time together watching television. The authors suggested that the television may have been on while the wife folded clothing. The husband may have reported this as time together watching television, while the wife may have reported it as homemaking time together. Thirty-years of role research aside including homemaking roles between woman and men, the point connects with more recent research suggesting that the time spent together must be more than just time or communication to impact marital satisfaction.
Positive & Meaningful Communication
Communication is important, but communication is not the end all solution. Any communication must be meaningful (Kingston & Nock, 1987), and more positive than negative (Gottman & Levenson, 1992). The efficacy of a ratio of 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction has been suggested empirically to support marital satisfaction. Communication skills continue to be a must for couples, but research reported by the USA Today suggests that the decrease in the divorce rate is due to many waiting or choosing not to marry at all. This suggests an honest conversation even before the nuptials.
Communication of feelings can run the risk of being misinterpreted if both partners in the marriage are not aware/able to express feelings. Women have been observed to be more elaborated than men in their responses to questions of emotions. But, this elaboration does not extend to general life situations or relationships other than the spousal relationship. In couples-conflict situations like spousal intimacy, women elaborated on emotional responses more than men. In situations like being rushed in daily errands, both men and women generated similar elaborations (Croyle & Waltz, 2002).
Feelings about work and career may not be elaborated by either spouse if not aided by some process. When the wife makes more money than the husband, marriage stability can also be threatened. Psychological variables that make up what Starkey (1991) terms “interpersonal competence” such as locus of control, trust, need for affiliation, planning, and whether the husband angers easily are important to a stable marriage especially when a wife is employed (Starkey, 1991). But again, the specific interventions that may support effective expression of the concepts above are hard to empirically connect to marital satisfaction. Further frustrating a model, locus of control compatibility has been ruled out as a marital satisfaction predictive factor (Smith, 2000). That is, though individual locus of control is supportive, the effective intervention is not simply to match couples according to the locus of control preferences of each spouse.