CONTEXT AND STRUCTURES AS CORRELATES OF MARITAL CONFLICT IN EKITI STATE
Background to the Study
When people get married, they are expected to have entered a better way of living and as a result, almost every marriage starts out as a huge celebration, with the hope that life will be full of happiness and to nothing can go wrong. As the journey of marriage continues, the involved begin to discover that no matter how well they get along, there are times when they disagree on major decisions, get annoyed at something the other person does, or just have quarrels because they’re in a bad mood or tired or for some other reason. Lack of similarities in ideals, opinions, thought patterns, and beliefs, disagreement or quarrel between the husband and wife may begin to make the couple to be tired of the marriage.
In many cases there are opposing ideas, opinions, feelings or wishes, one person wants one thing and the other person wants another thing, one activity is important to the husband while the wife detest that particular activity. These differences and disagreements are referred to as conflict. It is a known fact that individuals are different from each other and their interests also differ. They have different backgrounds, ideas and even different biological and psychological make these could lead to conflicting situations in a marriage. This was voiced by Barry, Hertet, Raush and Swain (1994) in Yahaya, Ogunsanmi and Oniye (2008) who noted that conflict is inevitable when partners in a close relationship seek to satisfy their varied needs. Conflict can arise in many areas of decision making, in the family -finances, child rearing, and extended families and they should be properly resolved in order to enjoy the marital relationship. These areas of conflict if not well managed can cause marital breakdown. Unresolved conflict could destroy a marriage.
Marriage is expected to be a permanent and lasting association. But it is surprising to see marriages breaking down after being so promising initially. Today, many marriages have become frustrated or dissolved as a result of conflict. Causes of conflict in marriage have been suggested to include individual differences, in-law interference, lack of sexual satisfaction, communication problems, childlessness, sex of children, early marriage, extra-marital affairs, different religion beliefs, early marriage, socio-economic factors and educational background.
Marriage, according to Zastrow and Kirst-Ashman (2007), have been thought to be an arrangement to meet the emotional needs of the partners such as affection, companionship, approval, encouragement, and reinforcement for achievements. However, conflict in marriage can also cause lot of headaches, emotional breakdown, and other psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, generalized anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders and psychosis. According to Owuamanam and Owuamanam (2002), these psychological disorders are characterized by feelings of tension, apprehension, fear, avoidance behaviour, chronic tendency to experience irrational feelings, worry, uneasiness, excessive perspiration, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, headaches, restlessness, helplessness, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, feelings of inadequacy, distress, obsession centring on inflicting harm on others, immoral sexual acts, hallucination, delusion, profound depression and suicide or total apathy to life. The view that marital problems can lead to psychological disorders or personality disorder is with the findings of Mackey (1998), who found out that marital difficulties are one of the leading reasons people seek psychological help from social workers and other human services professionals.
The deterioration of the nation socially, culturally, morally and economically can also be traced to the deterioration of family ties and of slack attitudes to family responsibilities that characterized many marriages today. This is so because the society emanates from the family and so if something is wrong with the family setting it has adverse effect on the society as a whole. Stress arising from marital difficulties has been linked with behavioural rigidity or disorganisation and self-destructive behaviours such as substance abuse and alcoholism. (Passer, Smith, Atkinson, Mitchell and Muir: 2003). Also, personality disorders such as anti-social behaviour shown by some people may reflect disordered relationship within the family. According to Passer et al. (2003), people with anti-social personality disorder seem to lack a conscience, they exhibit little anxiety or guilt and tend to be impulsive and unable to delay gratification of their needs. They also exhibit a lack of emotional attachment to other people. Their lack of the capacity to care about others can make them to constitute danger to the society.
Many people whose marriages are having problems or had been dissolved claim that they and their partners are not happy or that they could not reconcile their differences. Many marriages had ended in divorce because of what they called irreconcilable differences. Some families today are living with different kinds of marital problems; some married people are lamenting, shedding secret tears, and regretting getting married to their partners as a result of unresolved conflict in their marriages.
Nevertheless, some couples seem to be able to manage their conflict very well and are still together, their marriages being made more fulfilling while some others have ended in divorce or continued marital dissatisfaction. What could be responsible for this? Why is it that some marriages are rewarding while others have failed? Marital satisfaction or dissatisfaction could be said to depend on whether or not the couple are able to resolve their conflicts. This is because it is evident that all marriages have their times of disagreements and all individuals have their differences yet some marriages are stable and full of happiness while some are unstable and unhappy, even some have ended in divorce leaving the partners frustrated and emotionally distressed. That means marriage stability depends on conflict resolution and not the absence of conflict. This is corroborated by the submission of Esere (2008) in Yahaya, Esere, Ogunsanmi and Oniye (2008), that a disagreement between married partners can actually be constructive and useful if it is handled in the right way. He further opined that it is not how often couples engage in conflict that matters but how well they resolve the conflict before it degenerates to separation or divorce. Some factors seem to be influencing marital conflict resolution. These factors may be affecting the way each married person handle conflict in their marriages. They may also be responsible for successful or unsuccessful handling of conflict in marriage.
Researchers have found out that among the factors influencing conflict resolution is level of education of spouses. Education has been linked to marital satisfaction and marital conflict, with greater levels of education predicting greater marital satisfaction and less conflict. (Johnson & Booth, 1990). Another factor said to be influencing marital conflict resolution is communication. Kabali (2006) found out that non-dialoguing spouses are likely to find it more difficult to maintain harmonious relationship. Couple communication has been widely examined as a predictor of relationship satisfaction, a predictor of couples’ therapy outcomes, and as a focus of intervention in couples’ therapy (Bradbury, 1998; Gottman, 1999).
Also, Obe (1997), Oyedepo (2001) Awok, (2003) opined that age at marriage has tremendous effect on conflict resolution in marriage. They maintain that the seeming irresolvable conflict in marriages is caused by age, that when couples are not mature physically, emotionally and intellectually to handle marital conflicts with the patience, perseverance and understanding they require, conflicts and consequent breakups become imminent. Modu (1996) strengthens this position with his observation that when couples are young they tend to sleep over quarrels that would have been treated immediately to avoid carrying over grudges that may cause tension between them.
It is also believed that religion has influence on conflict resolution in marriage. Larson and Goltz (1989) found that religious participation is correlated with higher commitment to marriage and increased family satisfaction. Additionally, a review of the religion and marriage literature by Bahr and Chadwick (1985) found evidence that religious affiliation and activity have a modest positive impact on marriage and family life.
One other factor that may have particular influence on marital conflict resolution is gender role. It has been observed that men and women respond to conflict differently, Acitelli (1992), found out that gender role norms and relationship expectations are different for wives’ and for husbands’, leading to subsequent differences in marital quality. Length of marriage has also been identified to be a predictor for marital satisfaction and marital conflict. It is believed that the higher the years spent in marriage the easier it is to resolve conflict.
Statement of the Problem
Today, many marriages have ended in divorce because the couples involved have not been able to resolve their differences about pertinent issues. People opt for divorce on the ground of irreconcilable differences due to the fact they have not been able to properly manage and resolve conflict in their marriages. The so called irreconcilable differences are the result of misunderstandings arising from the inability to resolve conflict in marital relationships. With the rate of divorce and marital problems being experienced by many, it is as if the institution of marriage is heading in the wrong direction.
Many marriages that have ended in divorce could have been preserved if the couples involved have been able to resolve their differences about pertinent issues in marriage. As a result of unresolved conflict, there are untold headaches, heartaches and frustrations being experienced by many who have even decided against divorce based on their religion beliefs or other reasons. Some are living in the bondage of unhappy marriages. Some are having their sanity threatened on daily basis. Some have become alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers and notorious criminals. Some others had even committed suicide because they found it difficult to deal with the frustrations in their marital lives.
Also, there are some people are never married but are frustrated living their lives in-between the desire to get married and the fear of getting married. The instability in marriages today also poses a threat to the society at large.
It has been observed that level of education of spouses in a marriage could be a contributing factor to the way conflict is handled in that marriage. Communication also has been noted to affect conflict resolution in marriage. It is believed that communication determines marital satisfaction and conflict resolution in marriage. Couples who find it difficult to communicate may experience marital dissatisfaction than those who spend more time communicating. It has also been observed that age of couples affect conflict resolution in marriage. Couples who are not matured in age may not be able to handle conflict like those who are matured. Length of marriage has also been noted to be affecting conflict resolution in marriage. Newly wed couples are not as competent in handling conflict like those who have been long married. Breakdown in marriage is common among those have not been long married than those who have been long married. Religion has also been identified as a factor affecting conflict resolution in marriage. It has also been observed that different religious beliefs constitute a threat to marital satisfaction. It has been observed that gender contribute to marital conflict resolution. The way a woman reacts to conflict is different from the way a man would reacts. This difference has been observed to be responsible for the way conflict is handled in marriage.
Based on the observed problems of conflict and conflict resolution in marriage, this study therefore sought to find answers to the following questions:
- Do married people experience conflict in their marriage?
- What causes conflict in marriage?
- What are the effects of conflict in marriage?
- What factors influence conflict resolution?
- In what ways do married people resolved conflict in their marriages?
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