Marriage is always inter-cultural. Two individuals who decide to tie the knot in marriage know that each one of them come from a different cultural orientation. Culture is a way of life of a group of people living in a particular locality. Every individual has distinct cultural orientation with regard to beliefs, values, attitudes, practices, and worldviews. Thus when two persons decide to stay together for life in marriage, it is expected that various personal conflicts and differences will arise during the union. Marriage is not only a “bed of roses”, but also a “bed of thorns” that requires daily and lifelong adjustment and negotiation between the husband and the wife to continue the marital commitment until “death do us part.”
A study by Buss et al. (1990) revealed that cultural differences play an important role in marital conflict. Research shows that the top 4 sources of conflict and disagreement between married couples are those related to sexual activity, finances, division of labor, and raising of children in the family. According to many research, these 4 areas of marital conflicts are often significantly related to almost all cases of marital problems:
1. Sexual Activity
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Conflicts in sexual activity during marriage occur over initiation of sexual activity, with the female often rejecting male overtures. Males may be more eager for sex with their partner in order to reduce the risk of her impregnation by a rival, or as a side effect of a low threshold for sex in order to maximize fertilization of additional females.
Sexual coercion by any spouse in marital life constitutes another, possibly related source of conflict, usually with the male coercing the female (e.g. Miller, 2000). One study revealed that conflict in sexual activity in marriage has also been observed to occur over suspected or acknowledged infidelity, and over mate guarding, or jealousy. (Dillion et al., 2014).
2. Money Matters
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Money matters or financial management is also a major area that causes conflict in marriage and can lead to divorce or separation if not handled properly by the couple.
Some researchers have observed that finances on marriage often increase marital conflict and the chance of divorce rises when wives’ income rises (Rogers & DeBoer, 2001). Dew, Britt, and Huston (2012) also found that marital conflict involving finances was the strongest predictor of divorce. Individuals in a family may feel disadvantaged if they do not get to spend as much money as they would like or if the person feels that someone else in the family gets to spend more than they do.
Other researcher indicated that women report that arguments about money last longer and reoccurred more often and husbands report more angry behavior regarding this topic. Disagreements over money are more likely to be handled the wrong way and be unresolved in marital relationships (Papp, Cummings, & Corke-Morey, 2009).
A study by Rogers and DeBoer (2001) revealed that women are happier with their marriage when their income increases, but men are not affected by their wives’ income increase. An increase in income for women is thought to reduce the chance of divorce since an increase of income promotes marital happiness for women.
3. Division of Labor in the Family
The third major source of marital conflict is the division and distribution of labor in the family. The traditional gender always assign the housekeeping chores and child rearing to the wife, while the breadwining role is assigned to the husband.
One study revealed that the distribution of household chores can be a source of conflict for married people and can also be linked to gender inequality (Faulkner, Davey, & Davey, 2005). In our world today, less than 50% of women do not pursue careers in the workplace. But wives who have jobs outside of the home can increase martial conflict as women’s responsibilities include more than just taking care of the home and children (Faulkner, Davey, & Davey, 2005). Although wives working outside of the home can help improve the couple’s financial situation, it can also increase the wives’ awareness of the problems in a marriage (Amato, 2010). In this case, working wives are pressured to perform the dual roles of doing housekeeping and earning extra income for the family outside the home. This unequal distribution of labor in the family is a major cause of conflict and divorce.
4. Raising Children
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Raising the children in the family is also a main source of conflict between the husband and the wife. Conflict may arise over the number and spacing of children in some cultures (Mason and Taj, 1987) but not in others (Mason and Smith, 2000). When spouses do disagree on family planning, husbands usually desire more children than wives, consistent with women providing more childcare.
One study revealed that U.S. wives and husbands’ lack of relatives to assist them in marital conflict with regard to children can makes family life difficult because there is an extended family nearby to offer assistance.
A relationship with high levels of satisfaction can still end in dissolution if the partners are not committed to their relationship. Couples can still maintain their marital commitment despite various disagreements if they strive to keep the relationship going no matter what circumstances arise. In sociology, marriage is an ongoing negotiation between two people to keep their marital commitment. The success or continuity of the marriage would then depend on the willingness of the husband and wife to dialogue and and accept each other despite their personal and cultural differences. As the song goes, “I love you because you’re you!” Each spouse must not surrender just because of irreconcilable differences. Conflicts must be seen as a challenge to actualize the marital vows to remain married “until death do us part.”
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