Identity, intimacy, and marital satisfaction in midlife marriages

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to examine the structure of the midlife marriage, focusing on identity, intimacy, and marital satisfaction. The investigator sought to identify the identity issues that midlife men and women are experiencing, describe the intimacy issues they face as couples, and show if/how these factors relate to marital satisfaction.

Data were collected from a purposive sample of 48 midlife couples in the Roanoke Valley area. These couples were subgrouped into two categories: twenty-rive couples were classified as nonclinical couples (not in marital counseling at the present time) and twentythree were classified as clinical couples (currently in marital counseling). Information from the Waring Intimacy Questionnaire (WIQ) was used to analyze identity and intimacy issues and to examine factors that influenced marital satisfaction. Information from the Marital Satisfaction Scale was used to assess the level of marital satisfaction for both nonclinical and clinical couples.

The results of the study indicated that (1) men and women who are in marital counseling are in the process of examining their identity issues. Women appear to be reassessing their roles as wives and mothers and are beginning to concentrate on their individuality. The issues for men were less clearly defined. They continued to view work as of central importance in their lives and did not seem to have made the transition from work to family as their main source of identity as Levinson, Darrow, Klein, Levinson, and McKee (1978) predicted. Based on WIQ scores and qualitative responses on the questionnaire, men in both the nonclinical and clinical subgroups, and women in the clinical subgroup did not feel they had an intimate relationship with their spouses. Contrary to the premises of this study, identity and intimacy were not the most significant factors affecting marital satisfaction for these midlife couples. The two factors that most determined their couples· level of marital satisfaction were social desirability and compatibility.