Conversational Themes and Marital Relationship Definitions Quantitative and Qualitative Investigations

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Abstract

This article examines relationship themes in the conversations of 52 married couples and suggests that implicit aspects of relationship definition are reflected, first, in the content of discussion themes and, second, in the way that different themes are integrated. As expected, “communal” themes (concerning togetherness, cooperation, and communication) were expressed more frequently and individual themes (concerning personality and individual differences) were expressed less frequently by couples who were more psychologically interdependent, more conventional, less assertive, more satisfied, and older. A qualitative analysis of transcripts considered how relationship themes were integrated, based on the chaining out of themes by successive speakers (i.e., “continuity”) and expression of shared superordinate themes (i.e., “hierarchy”). Three forms of interaction (“blending,”“differentiating,” and “balancing”) were identified that reflect different levels of integration. Relationship characteristics, such as marital ideology and satisfaction, were consistent with the degree of interdependence/autonomy suggested by each form of interaction.

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