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Together or apart? A study of the role of intimacy in conflicts and reasons for separating among couples

Together or apart? A study of the role of intimacy in conflicts and reasons for separating among couples

This study examined the strengths and conflicts among Finnish married and cohabiting couples, and the reasons why couples separate and divorce. It includes information of their intimate relationship. A relationship that ends is like a multi-stage process leading to separation. The aim was to survey this process and the role of intimacy in it.

Method: The subjects were selected from among those who had formed a marriage or cohabitation agreement in 2005. More than 3,000 middle-aged women and men responded to the postal survey. Approximately half were still in the relationship they had begun in 2005, while the rest had separated from their spouse.

Results: The most common conflicts among those living together had to do with the sharing of housework and the rearing of children. In addition to everyday household issues, other important sources of conflict included the ways of expressing intimacy and emotion, and sex – in other words, the couple’s sense of togetherness and intimate relationship. Among the divorced, the most common sources of conflict had been differences in values and lifestyles, the way they discussed things, use of free time, and expressions of intimacy and emotion. The relationships that had ended in divorce usually suffered from various shortcomings in the spouses’ partnership and ability to convey intimacy and understanding to one another.

Conclusions: Apart from the good functioning of the partnership aspect, relationships can be assessed by considering a couple’s mutual sense of togetherness, their intimate relationship, the compatibility of their personalities, and the various influences originating from the outside world. An interesting characteristic associated with strong relationships was that those in a happy union believed their own relationship to be markedly better than that of other couples. Strengthening this perception served as a factor that helped to prevent divorce.

Conference: WAS Singapore 2015