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Contributory Factors to Marital Discord Explained

Nov 24, 2007
The most common contributory factors of marital discord are the intra-personal. The intra-personal factors will include those which are concerned with the personalities of the two partners and their fitness in various ways for the stresses and strains of marriage.

Some Intra-Personal Factors Which Can Contribute to Marital Disorder

A. Ignorance or misinformation. With more widespread projects concerned with education for marriage there is probably a steady lessening of ignorance and misinformation. But it is still true in most if not all countries that a large proportion of people who marry do so with the vaguest and often the most distorted ideas about such important matters as the sexual impulses in men and women, the meaning of love, the expression of love in the sexual relationship, the principles of personal relationships, and even about such "practical" matters as home management, cooking, sewing, carpentry, first aid and home nursing.
Matters concerning parenthood and child management also have much to do with the general conduct of marriage, and can be suitably dealt with in the early years of marriage, if possible before the children come.

B. Immaturity is probably the background factor in most marital disorders, even when the presenting problem seems to be of some other kind. Marriage is meant to be a partnership between adults, and adulthood is not mainly a chronological matter, even though the law finds it necessary to regard people over 21 as adults. In general the personality of the immature person is basically sound, but untrained and undisciplined. This may bring about very intense strains and conflicts in marriage because the give and take and the responsibilities are too great for the undeveloped personality to cope with reasonably.

C. Illness, physical and mental, may sometimes be found as a decisive intra-personal causative factor in marital disorder.

The heavy burden of severe or repeated physical illness, possibly including hospitalization and surgical operations, may overwhelm married couples who have not the physical, emotional and possibly the financial stability necessary to cope with it. When it happens early in a marriage it might be particularly difficult for them to negotiate. In some cases the help of social workers and of good neighbors and relatives will have a decisive effect on the preservation of the marriage.

D. Irreligion as an intra-personal factor may be distinguished from difference of religious denomination and other forms of religious incompatibility, which are more fittingly considered with the inter-personal factors. Irreligion is difficult to define in simple terms, and it may not necessarily correspond to outward or conventional indications. It may be thought of as a lack of an adequate sense of purpose, and consequently of values; gross self-centeredness and selfishness.

In this sense it will obviously make for great strain and difficulty in marriage, which requires some genuine concern for the welfare of others, some willingness to accept and forgive in realistic awareness of one's own fallibility. Professor John MacMurray once observed that "the field of religion is that of human relationships," and the Founder of Christianity laid down one predominant criterion by which the quality of our religion can be tested, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye love one another" (St. John 13:35).

We have considered four sets of intra-personal factors which can contribute to marital disorder, ignorance (or misinformation), immaturity, illness and irreligion. Although they are primarily intra-personal they cannot help bringing a degree of strain on the relationship. But they generally need to be dealt with mostly on the individual level, sometimes with the help of an appropriate person.

They are often best helped by a wise referral unless the marriage counselor has some special competence in the field of individual therapy concerned. At the same time the marriage counselor may well have an important role in helping the other partner to live with the disturbed situation while any individual help is being obtained, and possibly when the intra-personal disorder persists in spite of any attempts to help. He may also be able to help two disturbed people to live more peacefully together and to work out some flexible "live and let live" arrangement.
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