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Affection - Marital Satisfaction

gender family love communication spouse relationship

The categories of how people express love to each other are potentially helpful. These expressions of affection suggest a framework for understanding how different people view positive moments. Unfortunately, each spouse has a tendency to expect others to act, think, and desire things the way they do (Knapp and Vangelisti 1996). They focus on how they would like to receive affection. As a result, husbands and wives tend to express love to each other the way that they would like to receive it, thus neglecting to express love the way that the other person would feel the most loved. Examples of this confusion include a wife who feels love through the reception of gifts and who, in turn, gives gifts to her spouse to express affection to him. Little does she realize that he most feels loved through words of affirmation and encouragement. What should have been a positive moment turns into a negative one when a fight ensues because "You don't sing me love songs!" Consequently, spouses become dissatisfied and the relationship dissolves without either party really knowing what happened. Their main explanation is that they no longer feel loved.

Research suggests that a spouse who receives the type of love that he or she desires has higher levels of marital satisfaction than a spouse who does not (Keithley 2000). Each person in the relationship can directly influence the level of satisfaction that the other person experiences. This has profound implications for a relationship.

Knowing that a relational partner might not fully appreciate or feel loved by a certain action makes it clear that communication on this topic between spouses is essential. Likewise, it requires communication to know what positively increases a spouse's sense of satisfaction. If the two people in the relationship take the time to talk about the expressions of affection that the other spouse could perform to make them feel loved (i.e., increase their positive moments), they could specifically attempt to meet their spouse's needs in an informed and deliberate manner. This, of course, demands a certain degree of selfless behavior by both partners in the marriage. But doing so would increase each person's good moments, which, in turn, gives the relationship a greater degree of satisfaction. The song then changes, "You buy me flowers, you sing me love songs, you talk to me all the more, when you walk through the door at the end of the day."


Bibliography

Areni, C. S.; Kieckner, P.; and Palan, K. M. (1998). "Is It Better to Give than to Receive? Exploring Gender Differences in the Meaning of Memorable Gifts." Psychology and Marketing 15:81–109.

Baxter, L. A., and Bullis, C. (1986). "Turning Points in Developing Romantic Relationships." Communication Research 12:469–493.

Canary, D. J., and Dindia, K., eds. (1998). Sex Differences and Similarities in Communication: Critical Essays and Empirical Investigations of Sex and Gender in Interaction. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Canary D. J.; Emmers-Sommer, T. M.; and Faulkner, S. (1997). Sex and Gender: Differences in Personal Relationships. New York: Guilford Press.

Chapman, G. (1997). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Chicago: Northfield Publishing.

Cutrona, C. E. (1996). "Social Support as a Determinant of Marital Quality: The Interplay of Negative and Supportive Behaviors." In Handbook of Social Support and the Family, ed. G. R. Pierce, B. R. Sarason, and I. G. Sarason. New York: Plenum Press.

Diamond, N.; Bergman, A.; and Bergman, M. (1978). "You Don't Bring Me Flowers." Stonebrige Music (ASCAP) and Threesome Music (ASCAP).

Gottman, J. M. (1994). "Why Marriages Fail." In Making Connections: Readings in Relational Communication, ed. K. M. Galvin and P. J. Cooper. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Jones, S. E., and Yarbrough, A. E. (1985). "A Naturalistic Study of the Meanings of Touch." Communication Monographs 52:19–55.

Keithley, J. M. (2000). "How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways: The Impact of Affection on Marital Satisfaction." Unpublished master's thesis. Macomb: Western Illinois University.

Knapp, M. L., and Vangelisti, A. L. (1996). Interpersonal Communication and Human Relationships, 3rd edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Tannen, D. (1990). You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. New York: Ballantine Books.

Villard, K. L., and Whipple, L. J. (1967). Beginnings in Relational Communication. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

JENNIFER M. KEITHLEY

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