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The Concise Encyclopedia of Communication by Wolfgang Donsbach

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M

Marital Communication

Chris Segrin

University of Arizona

Marital communication refers to the communication that transpires between spouses. Many people feel that communication is the key to marital success, and therefore interest in marital communication is often undertaken to discover why some marriages fail and to help couples maintain a successful marriage.

Researchers have identified distinct types of marriages on the basis of couples’ communication behaviours. Fitzpatrick’s (1988) couple typology describes three types of marriages. “Traditional couples” hold conventional values toward their marriage, are interdependent, and are willing to engage in conflict when serious issues emerge. “Independent couples” are unconventional in their marital ideology, somewhat interdependent, and generally unrestrained in their conflict engagement. Finally, “separate couples” are the most autonomous and least likely to engage in conflict, while also holding somewhat conventional values. Gottman (1994) presented findings on a comparable typology of marriages, based on the nature of couples’ conflicts. ‘Validators’ tend to be mostly positive during their conflicts, showing mutual respect and validation of their partner’s emotions and perspective. ‘Volatile couples’ tend to be more explosive and argumentative, while also expressing substantial positivity. In contrast, ‘avoiders’ prefer to minimize their disagreements and avoid discussing them altogether. Gottman observed obvious connections ...

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