Negativity in Marriage

Researchers have found our thought processing is dominated by negative experiences, emotions, and memories (Haizlip, May, Schorling, Williams, Plews-Ogan, 2012).  Studies involving couples have shown that negative relationship functioning has greater impact in predicting relationship well-being (Rivers & Sanford, 2017) suggesting that positive relationship functioning can have a great impact on relationship satisfaction. Negative affect is a prevailing attitude that include moods, emotions, behaviors, depression, anger, contempt, and fear and likely to be present when couples are in a state of discord (Patterson, Gardner, Burr, Hubler, Roberts, 2012).

Research shows that from newlywed to mid years, couples can develop increased negative presence, hostility, argumentative behaviors, conflict with greater tension among husbands (Birditt, Orbuch, Wan, Antonucci, 2017). Birditt and associates found increased tension of the wife over time was a strong indicator for divorce, as well as the change of increased difficulty in communicating (Birditt et al., 2017). Another study found that couples are challenged with departing from these states of negativity which lead to extended periods of conflict and characterizing of the overall relationship (Patterson, Gardner, Burr, Hubler, Roberts, 2012). Negative affect has a reciprocal impact and has been found to facilitate escalation of conflict in dissatisfied couples, ruminating a minimum of four to five talk cycles (Patterson, Gardner, Burr, Hubler, Roberts, 2012).

Gottman (1994) noted that communication difficulties are a strong indicator for marriage failure, indicating that criticism is one the important indicator of such problematic relationship (Gottman, 1994). In a study that examined criticism and the lack of spousal respect found that negative communication can have an adverse effect on the quality of a marital relationship (Pereyra, Sandberg, Bean, Busby 2015). Pereyra and associates found that cultural differences play a role in how couples communicate and navigate marital problems.  This study found relationship satisfaction is influenced by cultural tendencies towards respect, maintaining politeness, and machismo or adherence to gender role hierarchy when communicating in Latino couples (Pereyra et al., 2015). High levels of couple negativity was connected to difficulty communicating problems and certain topics as reported by husbands in a 2013 study (Williamson, Hanna, Lavner, & Karney, 2013). This study also found that conversations centered around the sexual relationship were much more difficult than non-sexual topics, indicating that negative communication behaviors are impacted by content, attitude and skills in effective communication (Williamson et al., 2013).

Marital disharmony has physical and psychological implications with evidence of psychotic, neurotic and psychosomatic disorders (Weiss, Lavner & Miller, 2018). A study conducted by Weiss and associates found that husbands’ and wives’ psychopathic characteristics were linked to greater negative experiences increasing divorce likelihood years later (Weiss, 2018). These psychopathic characteristics include deceitfulness, egocentrism, impulsivity, aggressiveness, irresponsibility and manipulativeness all of which challenge marital satisfaction (Weiss et al., 2018). More serious symptoms such as suicidal ideation, depression disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, domestic violence and suicide (Dominian, 1972). Engagement of higher levels of reactive and proactive aggression has been found in psychopathic individuals (Coccaro, Lee, & McCloskey, 2014). According to a study of reported psychiatric illnesses, marital problems tops the list with women being affected more often than men. This study examined self-poisoning of 68 men and 147 women, 30% reported marital separation or divorce in the 30 days of the suicide attempt (Dominian, 1972). In couples, psychopathic symptoms are linked to negative communication and lack of problems solving skills (Weiss et al, 2018). According to a 2016 study, marital dissatisfaction is directly associated to poor mental health (Decuyper, Gistelinck, Vergauwe, Pancorbo, Fruyt, 2018).


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