Researchers agree that marriages have been changing throughout recent decades. For instance, Elliott (2008) notes that people tended to remain in their marriages even though they did not obtain emotional and psychological satisfaction as the marriage was seen as a social institution aimed at addressing social and economic issues.
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At present, people seek for emotional and psychological satisfaction and are reluctant to work hard to preserve their marriages. Though, there are people who are satisfied with their relationships. Researchers claim that this satisfaction comes from self-expansion, i.e. people affect each other and share positive experiences (Neff & Karney, 2009).
Notably, the social expansion theory has gained popularity among researchers. The present research is aimed at discovering the correlation between satisfaction with marriage and self-expansion in marriage.
The hypothesis can be formulated as follows: there is a strong correlation between the degree of self-expansion and satisfaction with marriage.
The quantitative method is employed in the present research. Two couples (an unmarried and a married couple) completed questionnaires. They rated key factors which are important for the happy marriage. They also chose a pattern on the Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale. Finally, they reported on their satisfaction with their marriage.
The results of the present research suggest that the hypothesis is confirmed. Thus, the partners in the unmarried couple had similar views on the importance of sharing experiences and understanding. The two partners chose the circle, which shows a considerable degree of self-expansion.
The partners also reported that they were satisfied with their relationship even though one of the partners felt their relationship was getting into a rut. When it comes to the married couple, the partners rated the key factors quite differently though they both mentioned such aspects as trust, responsibility, communication and wealth.
The two partners also noted that their life was getting into a rut. Finally, the degree of their self-expansion is quite low. Remarkably, the partners were not totally satisfied with their marriage (one of the partners was ‘somewhat satisfied’ while the other was ‘somewhat dissatisfied’).
Therefore, it is possible to note that there is certain correlation between the degree of satisfaction with marriage and the degree of self-expansion. The partners who reveal considerable degree of self-expansion reported about their satisfaction with their relationship while those reporting about their dissatisfaction show low self-expansion degree.
It is necessary to note that the results of the present research can have a number of implications. In the first place, the results justify accuracy of social expansion theory. The results can be seen as an illustration of the major claim of the theory’s opponents that self-expansion in marriage results in satisfaction and proper relationships.
Thus, Parker-Pope (2010) states that ‘happy marriages’ are based on shared values and positive experiences. Tsapelas, Aron and Orbuch (2010, p. 545) also point out that “enhancing positive” is as important as “eliminating negatives”. Clearly, there are still gaps in the theory and further research is needed. For example, Brody et al. (2009) highlight certain gaps in the theory.
Thus, it is still unclear whether openness is one of the crucial factors affecting people’s relationship. The researchers note that happy marriages are not always characterized by openness though partners report about their satisfaction with their marriage (Brody et al., 2009). Therefore, it is important to discover the correlation between openness and marriage satisfaction.
On the other hand, the present research also illustrates effectiveness of questionnaires. This method requires less time than other strategies (e.g. interviewing). It also ensures relevance of the data obtained. Clearly, during interviews people may be somewhat constrained and tend to be insincere.
When it comes to questionnaires, people are more focused and determined to provide truthful answers due to anonymity. Admittedly, the data obtained only help trace some trends. As has been mentioned above, questionnaires can include a lot of meaningful questions and people spend less time completing them. Nonetheless, such methods as interviews provide researchers with more detailed information.
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Interviews can also help reveal some factors that affect people’s decisions. It is also possible to trace people’s reactions while asking questions, which can also be important. When it comes to research on marriage, it can be effective to combine the two methods to obtain more information.
It is necessary to note that the present study has a number of limitations. One of the major limitations is certain lack of data. Further research on the matter is necessary. The research should include more participants. The research can be based on questionnaires which should be expanded.
It can also be beneficial to hold a number of interviews with several participants. Furthermore, the present research focuses on the degree of satisfaction with relationship, but it does not reveal factors that determine attraction. In other words, it is not clear how people start their relationship, in the first place.
At that, it is important to understand how people are attracted to be able to analyze their relationship in the future. Sharing similar values is seen as one of the key factors affecting development of relationship though physical attraction is also an important factor. It is accepted that different people are attracted to each other. Brody et al. (2009) note that people tend to strive for new discoveries.
Clearly, this is quite difficult when partners are very similar as they know everything about themselves and their partners. This understanding can soon grow in boredom (Tsapelas, Aron & Orbuch, 2010).
On the other hand, totally different people will not be able to develop proper relationship and have a ‘happy’ marriage. Totally different people are unlikely to share similar values. Self-expansion will require additional effort and partners’ commitment in such relationship.
Irrespective of these limitations, the present research provides valuable insights into the nature of marriages. It also helped understand existing gaps in the study. Thus, further research may involve analysis of such aspects as factors affecting people’s attraction and socioeconomic factors influencing development of relationship.
Further research will involve more participants and the mixed research method will be employed. Participants will complete more detailed questionnaires and some participants will be interviewed. Clearly, social expansion theory will be the basis of the further research as it has proved to be effective. Participants will contemplate the degree of their self-expansion.
All in all, it is possible to note that the present research is the first step which can result in a profound analysis of marriages. Admittedly, it is essential to understand what factors affect people’s relationship to help people have ‘happy’ marriages. This, in its turn, will help the society develop properly as a strong state is built by strong and happy families.
Brody, S., Wright, S.C., Aron, A., & McLaughlin-Volpe, T. (2009). Compassionate love for individuals in other social groups. In B. Fehr, S. Sprecher, & L.G. Underwood (Eds.), The science of compassionate love: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 201-223). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
Elliott, A. (2008). Contemporary social theory: An introduction. New York, NY: Routledge.
Neff, L.A., & Karney, B.R. (2009). Compassionate love in early marriage. In B. Fehr, S. Sprecher, & L.G. Underwood (Eds.), The science of compassionate love: Theory, research, and applications (pp. 201-223). Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
Parker-Pope, T. (2010, December 31). The happy marriage is the ‘me’ marriage. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/02/weekinreview/02parkerpope.html?_r=3&
Tsapelas, I., Aron, A., & Orbuch, T. (2009). Marital boredom now predicts less satisfaction 9 years later. Psychological Science, 20(5), 543-545.