From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Loyal Marriages

Welcome to Part III of our discussion of marital satisfaction based upon my research at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. According to this research, marital satisfaction is based upon satisfaction with 3 types of characteristics of the marriage: satisfaction with how loving the marriage is, satisfaction with how loyal the relationship is, and satisfaction with family and religion in the marriage. In this article, we will describe the role of loyalty in marital satisfaction.

To avoid embarrassment, couples must learn which topics are off limits in public. Two which readily come to mind are (1) criticisms of in-laws and (2) telling embarrassing stories about each other. Unfortunately, most of these lessons are learned after the fact, and after the fight. So, I recommend using the marital fight as a learning experience and an opportunity to discuss how things should be handled in the future. Hopefully, marital disagreements lead to a better understanding of one another, and a growing love and respect for each other.

Each of us enters into marriage with a set of standards and beliefs which have developed over the course of our lifetime. Thus, it should be relatively easy to predict whether a relationship between two parties will be peaceful, or escalate into constant power struggles. Since most of us learn our ethics and values from our families of origin, a look at both families is one way to predict long-term compatibility. However, engaged couples tend to minimize their differences during courtship, so it is hard to imagine the future as any less than perfect. None-the-less, a shared value system will eventually be important, especially if children come into the picture. Loyal marriages are sexually satisfying. Sex in marriage serves to re-charge the teamwork battery. When couples make love, they are caring for each other in very important ways. By honoring each other’s sexuality and conveying that you find your partner sexually attractive, you are also helping to maintain the esteem of your mate. When spouses fail to relate to each other in sexual ways, the relationship becomes vulnerable to mistrust and interference by others. Human beings have a great need to feel loved, honored and cherished. Sexuality is a bonding exercise between mates, which must be renewed regularly and with enthusiasm. Likewise, sexual functioning is important from a physical perspective. When in doubt, see a doctor or therapist for your sexual concerns.

To sum up, when couples decide to marry, they often fail to consider the role of loyalty in marriage. However, this research suggests that loyalty is critically important and plays a significant role in marital satisfaction. When choosing a mate, we must realize that we are not only selecting a life partner, but also, we are selecting a partner for life. Courtship is really the easy part. After the wedding, the real work begins!

The research described here was conducted as part of my dissertation, "The relationship between marital characteristics, marital interaction processes, and marital satisfaction". I am grateful to Dr. Jane E. Myers and other faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for their guidance, support and encouragement on this project.

ęCopyright, 1999, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.

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Last Updated June 5, 1999 by Gary M. Grandon, Ph.D.