By Jacob Yoss
Communication is so easy nowadays, it seems. Yet why do married couples still struggle with it? Divorce rates are distressingly high. These divorces are preventable, though, when spouses are able to recognize exactly what kind of problems in communicating they are experiencing and what solutions to apply.
Obviously, lack of communication can drive a marriage to the brink. According to one woman who participated in a healthy marriage study by Marriage & Family Review, her deployed husband “ ‘was in Newfoundland and not writing. I felt alone and unwanted so I filed for divorce’ ” (Tulane, S., Skogrand, L., & Defrain, J., 2011). Isolation is a common problem that leads to divorce. When two spouses do not share their appreciation and love for one another, it causes doubts. As social creatures, humans need to feel wanted and to have interaction with others. If a human does not have satisfactory interaction with his or her mate, of all people, it is natural to desire to find a new one who can fulfill the need to feel “special.” In the case of the wife mentioned above, her husband was not filling this role. While his physical absence is excusable, it would not be difficult for these two spouses to keep their marriage in tact via social media sites like Facebook, or even simple phone calls and text messages. These kinds of messages do not have to be overly long, as is commonly associated with hand-written letters, and can happen much more frequently. With the ease and low time cost of communicating in this day and age, it is saddening to think of how easily this marriage could have been saved.
Lack of true verbal communication is not the only factor in divorce. Some couples speak with each other frequently– however, what they say to one another is sometimes contradictory, which leads to escalated arguments. A different couple that also participated in Marriage & Family Review’s study confessed to fighting primarily “ ‘about kids and money,’ ” and the “inability to compromise placed a strain on their relationship and resulted in thoughts of divorce” (Tulane, S., Skogrand, L., & Defrain, J., 2011). When couples cannot agree on a certain matter, feelings of anger often occur. Anger hinders each member of the relationship from fulfilling the duty of a mate and making the other feel loved. This issue, too, can be solved reasonably, just like any other debate. One woman acknowledged that she and her husband “ ‘had to work through it, continue communicating, understand each other better and reset priorities… Learning diplomatic ways to express feelings and continuing to talk calmly through to resolution– we haven’t ‘fought’ in many years!’” (Tulane, S., Skogrand, L., & Defrain, J., 2011). This, however, may not work for every couple. Despite the possibility that this method may fail, when a compromise cannot be reached, some couples who participated in Marriage & Family Review’s study “discussed continued difficulties in communication but had gained an acceptance of communication patterns… Wife 12 said ‘sometimes we would argue for days but we both say we are sorry and talk about it in the end and forgive each other and it’s over. I think this works well’ ” (Tulane, S., Skogrand, L., & Defrain, J., 2011). So, even when spouses cannot see eye-to-eye, it is possible to overcome this difficulty when the situation is expected.
As previously stated, technology can make it much easier for spouses to communicate. This, however, can also be part of the divorce problem– it’s too easy, and when this ease of communication is suddenly removed, a member of a relationship might panic. During a study conducted in Ethiopia that evaluated the effects cellular telephones had on marriages, one male participant noted that he would receive several calls from his wife everyday, but when his phone was turned off, she would become suspicious (Kenaw 2012). The study came to the realization that “both men and women use [cell phones] to monitor the whereabouts of their respective partners… the technology has become a useful instrument to ‘control’ spouses” (Kenaw 2012). The ability to contact your spouse at the touch of a button, no matter the distance, is a beneficial thing. Cell phones, though, allow you to contact anyone, not just your spouse. This makes it easier than ever to hide potential affairs or raise suspicions when one is not occurring. Interviewees confessed to checking their partners’ handsets on a regular basis, and sometimes “interrogate each other to the point where they get stuck due to a ‘novel’ discovery that one had got some hidden contact information outside the other’s knowledge sometimes real and other times imagined, resulting in communication failure” (Kenaw 2012). It is tragic that a tool invented to ease communication sometimes has the opposite effect. Some cell phone owners “use it to enhance cohesion and communication, other cases indicate that the technology can also lead to separation and divorce” (Kenaw 2012). There are clearly other stressors associated with divorce, ranging from financial issues to the idea of not being in love any longer. Technology can either help resolve these issues or exacerbate them. If a hypothetical couple was having recurring fights and separated to take time apart, cell phones and social media sites can help them resolve their issues– they can even speak without having to see the other’s face if desired, and are allowed time to concoct a satisfactory and appropriate statement. Technology can, though, be overused to the point of pestering a partner, driving a wedge in the relationship if one member no longer desires the company of the other after a time.
So the question is raised: can resolution of communication issues save a marriage? Yes, it can– as long as the participants of the marriage can recognize precisely what is wrong with their communication. If they speak often but simply disagree on numerous things, it would be a faulty solution to interact more as is commonly done when the topic of “communication problems” is brought up. Instead, the couple must seek out a way that allows them to disagree and focus on the reasons why they initially fell in love. Humans are social creatures, but do not enjoy being controlled. Cell phones and social media make it easy to be domineering over a partner, but sometimes, excessive communication can leave a person uncomfortable when he or she needs space. A couple in this situation needs to learn to relax and trust each other. This trust will allow for deeper communication, and when a couple can communicate properly about the right topics, love can be maintained. And when love survives, the legal and sacred bond of marriage can be saved.
Kenaw, S. (2012). Cultural translation of mobile telephones: mediation of strained communication among Ethiopian married couples. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 50.1, 131-155. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0022278X11000632. Retrieved from:
Tulane, S., Skogrand, L., & Defrain, J. (2011). Couples in Great Marriages Who Considered Divorcing. Marriage & Family Review, 47:5, 289-310. doi: 10.1080/01494929.2011.594215. Retrieved from