A qualitative investigation into marital values and ideals in engaged individuals

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Counseling Psychology

First Committee Member

Blaine J. Fowers - Committee Chair


Marital values and ideals in 19 (38 individuals) engaged couples were qualitatively explored using grounded theory framework to analyze semi-structured interview data. A qualitative approach was used in order to obtain a more in-depth understanding of how engaged people see their relationships and upcoming marriages.Couple members' responses indicated degrees of idealization in their responses that fell into five areas: interactive, marriage ideals, anticipation of difficulty, managing negativity, and reasons for divorce. The interactive category included ideals pertaining to communication, conflict resolution, and relational aspects. The marriage ideals category included those marital ideals related to desired marriage and defining marriage. Anticipation of difficulty involved expectations around the unattainable quality of perfection in marriage. The managing negativity category indicated the difficulty that some respondents had in tolerating negativity about their relationships and future marriages. Reasons for divorce included the range of reasons expressed by respondents under which they would consider divorce. Couple members also evidenced idealization in their responses to divorce predictions, as the majority of respondents predicted a zero percent likelihood of divorce for their upcoming marriages.Communication was the most frequently cited marital ideal in the present study, with all of the couple members using the word "communication" in their responses. Communication, frequently used in the phrase "open communication," appeared to be a catchall phrase, or "buzz word," for any kind of talk in relationship, including conflict resolution. The majority of couple members used the term "open communication" to describe only the frequency of talking, regardless of the purpose of the communication.The knowledge of social convention and "realities" of marriage do not necessarily translate into less idealization by engaged individuals toward their future marriages. Idealization of marriage seems integral, and almost necessary, to the engagement stage of marriage. Recommendations for further study are enclosed.


Education, Guidance and Counseling; Sociology, Individual and Family Studies

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