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The communication in marriage is a topic that has received much attention from the researchers. The scientists applied different disciplines such as psychology to investigate this issue. The results of studies were documented in many books and academic journals (Vangelisti, 2004, p.83).
The importance of communication can hardly be underestimated. A national poll conducted in 1998 showed that most respondents regardless of their race, age, economic standing and sex highlighted communication problems as the primary reason for divorce. A person has a need to connect with other people, therefore communication in any form is the medium for us to do so, and having a successful communication – both verbal and non-verbal – does not only help solve problems, but also makes everyday relationships and interactions satisfying and is a key to a marriage that will be constructive, fulfilling and happy.
All people have a psychological need to communicate and create meaningful ties with others. “The core types of psychological need have been identified – competence, relatedness and autonomy – and the satisfaction of all three results in optimal well being” (Hargie, 2004, p. 2). This psychological need is a stimulus for having interpersonal relationships some of which will become “the bedrock of institutions such as marriage” (Hargie, 2004, p. 49). When people are getting married, their roles of a husband and a wife are formulated, adjusted, and agreed upon in the process of communication and interactions, rather than simply being given by the act of marriage (Hargie, 2004, p. 239). The role’s essence might differ from the one imagined or expected. People tend to think in terms of the future and imagine their future life and relationships. Our perception of it might be not accurate, since not all the information we receive from others is accurate or we might misinterpret the information (Hargie, 2004, p. 41). It is natural for people to approach social relationships with certain expectations. If those are unrealistic, it is important to realise it (Hargie, 2004, p. 295). If the expectations are not clarified soon enough, then communication or relationship might be strained. A marriage may begin with unrealistic expectations, based on personal experiences or assumptions. Many of those expectations, which we unconsciously perceive as “rules”, were formed in childhood and early adulthood and we often make judgements about world relying on them. Those perceptions are shaped by watching our parents and other people, our cultural affiliations and background, media, books and Internet, and opinions of people we value, such as our friends (Harrar).
Unrealistic expectations are often based on myths, which are the beliefs that we consider to be true despite the fact that they are unsupported scientifically or otherwise. They can create or sustain problems, particularly in marriage (Larson, 2002, p. 7). Some of the common myths are: “I just need to find the right person”, “If I am loved, my spouse would undoubtedly know what I want or need to be happy”, “My spouse should love me simply because we are married regardless of my behaviour”, “It is possible to change your spouse by pointing out their errors”, “We should tell each other everything”, “Marriage is an equal partnership” and many more.
The reality is very far from those unrealistic expectations, and potential or existing conflicts can be solved or prevented only through clear and open communication and sometimes through getting professional help. In addition, the expectations we have for our partners should be re-evaluated over time, because some will not be apparent until a significant point in life (Harrar). Learning to appropriately address the issue in the early stages or even prevent the issue from becoming explicit helps avoid frustrations and other problems, which may otherwise lead to unhappy union.
The matter is complicated by the diversity. Every person is unique, and psychological differences in men and women just make the matter worse. Again, some myths and stereotypes surround the subject of differences in men’s and women’s communication. It is important to remember that not all men (or women) are alike, as the saying goes. However, there are some peculiarities that are attributed to men’s speech and communication, such as it being less emotional and expressive. Men tend to avoid talking about their feelings and personal matters, especially with people they do not feel close to. Men express their feelings through actions. They perceive communication as a means of finding solutions to a problem, thus their communication is primarily instrumental. On the contrary, women’s need to communicate is more on the emotional side; for them, a talk is the main foundation for intimacy and closeness (Wood, 2010, p. 105). When woman talks about her problems, she seldom seeks practical solutions rather than empathy and outlet for her feelings. This difference in approach, if not minded, can be a source of frustrations and disappointments. Men are often perceived by women as uncaring and insensitive, while women are reputed as vain and impractical. Many researchers tried to understand those differences and educate the general public on them. The popularity of bestsellers such as “Man are from Mars, Women are from Venus” and “What men say, What women hear” only confirms that gender communication differences is the topic the public wants and needs to understand more.
Learning about the differences and ways to overcome them can greatly improve marriage and any relationship. There are thousands of books written on the subject, communication courses, marriage counselling and therapies offered to those who are willing to learn. “Communication skills, therefore, are the oil in the marriage engine. Without them, the engine runs poorly or not at all” (Larson, 2002, p. 22).
The advantages of good communication in marriage are countless. Communication helps in building family bonds that result in happier life, healthier children and adults, lower stress level, support, higher level of vitality and boasted creativity and success. Communication skills and techniques can and should be learned. Communication education should start much earlier than the marriage occurs, just like one learns to drive prior to buying a car.