Moral conflict in marriage

Lloyd, Rachel Rose
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Dyadic conflicts may emerge for a variety of reasons however some conflicts are viewed as more influential than others. Moral conflicts are viewed as particularly critical to relationships due to their possible intractable nature (Vallacher et al., 2010). The first goal of the current study was to examine theoretical perspectives from a variety of academic fields to identify the types of moral conflicts that are experienced in marriage. Secondly, this study addressed the perceived conflict management strategies used by a partner during a specific episode of moral conflict. Lastly, the study investigated how the communication strategies used during a moral conflict contributed to relational satisfaction. The present study surveyed 235 married individuals and found that individuals experienced ten types of moral conflict, some of which may be unique to marriage (e.g., loyalty, authority over assets of equal ownership, free will/determinism). Results also indicated that those who perceived their partner also thought the conflict had a moral nature, were more likely to see their viewpoint as superior, despite indicating that they were able to understand their partner’s position. In addition, those who thought that their partner had similar perceptions of the moral nature of a conflict felt that their partner displayed negative emotions during conflict (e.g., crying, depressed), but did not show behaviors attempting to avoid or deny the conflict. Lastly, individuals who perceived their partner as using integrative strategies were more satisfied with their relationship, whereas those who viewed their partner as using distributive strategies expressed lower levels of relational satisfaction. Findings also demonstrated that people felt less satisfied with their relationship when their partners used avoidance or denial during moral conflict and more satisfied with their relationship when their partner displayed expressions of negative affect. Implications about conceptualizing moral conflict in marriage are discussed as well as suggestions for future inquiry.