Identity and stability in the marriage relationship
This study involves the examination of an hypothesis that married people are unlikely to be able to achieve, within their marriages, both the fulfilment of a sense of identity and the maintenance of a sense of stability, since the conditions for the achievement of these two ends appear contradictory. Five areas of marital behaviour were suggested as likely to provide evidence of contradiction, and these areas formed the topics for investigation. They are: the amount and nature of conversation between the spouses; the amount and nature of activity which a person carries out without his or her spouse; the types of behaviour which people feel are constrained upon them as married persons; the extent and nature of personal change and changes in activities and interests during marriage; and the friendships which people have with others besides their spouse. The investigation was carried out by means of a small scale interview study of forty married people. The findings present evidence of the achievement by couples of compromise situations (for example, a good deal of talk, but some avoidance of topics on some occasions; a good deal of joint activity, but some separate pursuits) and feelings both of acceptance and regret (for example a recognition of the positive benefits or the compensations accruing from being constrained to behave in certain ways, in changing one's activities and in losing friends as well as a dislike of these things). Where behaviour appeared to tend towards the extremes there were in most cases, as expected, reports of dissatisfaction and a desire for less extreme behaviour; this provides further evidence of a wish to balance the two contradictory desires for identity and stability by reaching a compromise solution.