Communication - Couple Relationships
Individuals often treat their significant others more poorly than they do strangers (Birchler, Weiss, and Vincent 1975; Miller 1997). Figures suggest that the divorce rate hovers between 50 and 60 percent in the United States for all first marriages and 27 percent for all marriages in Australia (Americans for Divorce Reform). Although the divorce rate in the United States is higher than in other countries, divorce is not uncommon elsewhere. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reported that in 2002, 2.1 percent of Japanese had been divorced at least once. This is in comparison to the 4.3 percent they reported for the total U.S. population. They also reported that the divorce rate in Germany was 2.5 percent of the total population; in France 2.0 percent; in the United Kingdom 2.7 percent; and in Sweden 2.4 percent. Italy was credited as having the lowest divorce rate in Western culture (0.6% of the total population).
Indeed, many a gap seems to exist between an individual's relational ideal and eventual relational reality. As much of the scholarship suggests, problematic communication patterns can contribute to relational demise (Gottman 1994).
Much of the popular literature suggests that men and women are different and that these differences manifest themselves through the sexes' different communication and relationship needs (Gray 1992). Some of the scholarly research, however, suggests that men and women are not very different in their communication or relationship needs (Canary and Emmers-Sommer 1997). Although some differences do exist, so do several similarities.
When considering couple communication in close relationships, a variety of things are relevant and of interest. First, what gender differences (if any) are recognizable in couple communication patterns? Second, how do couple-type identification and gender-role adherence play a part in how individuals communicate with their partners? Finally, how do aspects of gender-role adherence and couple-type identification relate to (dis)satisfactory couple communication? It should be noted that most of the relevant research has been done in Western cultures, with most of it conducted in the United States.