Melissa E. Tamas
Clark University, Psychology Department, Worcester (MA), USA

E-mail:mtamas@clarku.edu

 

CONSIDERING THE DIALOGICALITY OF MARITAL EXPECTATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES

 

On the surface, the marital expectations of North Americans seem to be very personal. If we were to ask someone why they got married or want to get married, their response would most likely include some of the following ideas: wanting a soul mate, falling in love, finding the right person, having a best friends to grow old with. Despite this seemingly individualist reasons, a myriad of authors have noted how individual marital expectations are largely influenced by societal forces. The purpose of this paper is to consider the dialogicality of marital expectations, more specifically, how both individual and societal forces influence marital expectations. In considering the society, the paper will explore how societal structures influences a society's collective belief about the function and purpose of marriage. Societies that tend to be less industrial, less urban and more static create a great deal of interdependency between its members that tends to be associated with marital expectations that are more other-focused, necessity-based, and practical. Western societies like the United States, in constrast, characterized by their high degree of industrialization, urbanization and mobility tend to have more segregation between individuals, leading to marital expectations that are more romantic, individualistic and less enduring. The paper will also look at more individualistic influences on marital expectations. In so doing, it will focus on how identity markers, like gender, race, sexuality and ethnicity, impact individual's experiences and beliefs about marriage. Each identity marker has its own collective societal experience and history with marriage that transcends the particular individual and which impacts individual marital expectations and beliefs in a variety of ways. Individuals, themselves, vary dramatically in how they experience, interpret and react to that collective history and experience. These collective experiences and histories as well as the individual interpretations of them also interact with the individual's own unique experiences with those identity markers and with marriage to shape their marital expectations. Marital expectations are thus the product not of society or the individual, but of the interrelationship between them. However, the dialogical aspect of marriage is often ignored in contemporary theories. The purpose of this paper is to redress this neglect and to bring their interrelatedness to the forefront.