THE CONCEPT OF MARITAL STABILITY

The term stability in a general way refers to the quality, state or degree of being in a stable position. Sustaining a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship across a lifetime is a substantial challenge. Almost all marriages and other committed relationships began with high relationship satisfaction (Bradbury, 1998).The partners usually hope and expect that the relationship will be lifelong. Unfortunately, for many couples, their initial positive feelings decline with time. Between one third and one-half of marriages in developed countries deteriorate to a point where distance or conflict becomes predominant, at least one of the partners give up on the relationship and the couple separates. The rate of relationship deterioration and separation are even higher in cohabiting couples. However, the erosion of relationship satisfaction that many couples experience is not inevitable. Couples who developed core relationship knowledge, skills and attitudes greatly enhance their chances of higher marriage sustainability and mutually satisfying relationship. They may be the predominating factors affecting the marital stability.

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According to Mitchell, K. S., and Plauche, H. (2016), marital stability can be defined as remaining legally married without divorce, physical separation, or legal separation. Marital stability is related to but distinct from marital adjustment, marital satisfaction, and marital success. But the stability depends on all these factors. It can be said that it is the sum of adjustment, marital satisfaction, and marital success. Factors that are associated with decreases in marital stability include financial stress, low income, low educational attainment, and unemployment, young age at marriage, parental divorce, and dissimilarity to spouse, religiosity, and serial premarital cohabitation. Marital stability is generally associated with positive outcomes for adults and children.

Moreover, Booth, Johnson, and Edwards (1983) have defined marital instability as “affective and cognitive states along the related actions that are precedent to terminating a relationship” and “a situation in an intact dyad, not to ones that already have been disrupted” (p. 392). However, most researchers have commonly relied on separation and divorce statistics (i.e., consequences of instability) to represent marital instability. Furthermore, because most previous studies on sexual satisfaction have mostly focused on newlyweds and young couples (Henderson-King & Veroff, 1994; Kurdek, 1993; Oggins et al., 1993), little is known about variability in sexual satisfaction among long -married couples.

A key feature of the Indian socio-cultural and marriage system is the strict policing of sexuality and proscription of sexuality to within marriage for women (Abraham 2001; Dutta 2011; Still 2010). A woman who indulges in pre-marital sex is considered as bringing shame to not only the family but also as corrupting the purity of caste. Family and caste councils, therefore, have assumed the role of policing women’s sexuality (Abraham 2014; Chakravarti 1993). The policing of sexuality are stricter among groups where the consciousness of caste identity is stronger (Abraham 2014; Dube 2001). The concern about sexuality has meant that unmarried daughters are seen as a burden and a threat to the existing marriage and social order (Kodoth 2008; Netting 2010). This concern about sexuality, among other factors, has meant that marriage is relatively early and nearly universal.

The second feature of the Indian marriage system that could influence marital stability is the nature of spouse selection. Marriages are typically arranged by parents or families (with varying degrees of consent and discussion with children) rather than based on pre-marital dating or relationships (Allendorf 2012; Prakash and Singh 2013). Parents and family play an important role in marriage is seen as affecting the status of the family and lineage (Harlan and Courtright 1995). Though arranged marriages have persisted, the degree of involvement of parents, families and the young themselves have changed. There is now greater participation and the higher degree of involvement of young men and women in selecting their own spouses through negotiation with parents and families. Compared to the past the wishes and desires of the couples themselves are now considered during selection of a spouse (Netting 2010; Titzmann 2013). The use of technology in matchmaking through matrimonial websites while offering the potential to transgress traditional boundaries seems to have re-entrenched traditional values in spouse selection (Kaur and Dhanda 2013). Even for those young men and women choosing their own spouse, there is considerable pressure to choose the ?right? person that fits with the dominant patriarchal and parochial norms and caste identities (Abeyasekera 2013; Ahearn 2001). The shift towards greater choice in partner selection and companionate’marriages in which conjugal power relationship is less hierarchical (Fuller and Narasimhan 2008; Gilbertson 2014) could potentially impact marriage stability. Kishwar (1999), for instance, argues that stability of arranged marriages is due to stronger material and emotional support provided by natal family and kin. Such support might promote reconciliation and help to heal marital differences. Marriages in which family and kin do not play a major role might be less stable. However, this perspective is seen as stereotyping Indian marriages. Grover’s (2009) work, on the other hand, draws attention to the destabilizing effect of family and kin in arranged marriages. She argues that marriages in which families did not have a greater say in selecting spouse might be more stable. This is because in such marriages women might not expect to receive support from the families nor access to natal homes in times of marital conflict. Marriages in which partners have a greater choice and say might also be stable for a different reason. Such marriages might engender stability through the promotion of emotional bonds, conjugality and intimacy (Osella and Osella 2006).

The third aspect of the marriage system