Academic journal article Family Relations

Raising Awareness about Marital Expectations: Are Unrealistic Beliefs Changed by Integrative Teaching?

Academic journal article Family Relations

Raising Awareness about Marital Expectations: Are Unrealistic Beliefs Changed by Integrative Teaching?

Article excerpt

This study explores the effects of integrative teaching on college students' unrealistic and romantic beliefs about marriage. The hypothesis that students in the integrative teaching group would significantly lower unrealistic beliefs was partially supported, with students in the integrative teaching group significantly lowering their romantic beliefs. Unrealistic relationship beliefs decreased for both comparison and integrative teaching groups. Women in both groups ascribe to fewer unrealistic relationship and romantic beliefs. Implications of these findings are discussed.

Key Words: integrative teaching, marriage, premarital expectations, romantic beliefs, unrealistic beliefs.

The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of integrative teaching techniques in changing college students' unrealistic and overly romantic beliefs about marriage. Family life educators want to make positive impacts on their students' lives but seldom are teaching methods evaluated for their efficacy, so educators must speculate the degree to which students were influenced, and in what ways. In this study, we examine some ways to effect marital beliefs of college students.

The high rate of marital distress and its ensuing negative consequences have obligated family professionals to examine possible causes of unsuccessful marriages (Larson & Holman, 1994). As a result, predictors of marital distress have received increasing attention by researchers. In particular, one premarital factor that has been emphasized is individuals' beliefs about marital relationships. Research has indicated that unrealistic marital beliefs based on distorted assumptions tend to diminish interpersonal satisfaction in intimate relationships (Baucom & Epstein, 1990; Eidelson & Epstein, 1982; Kurdek, 1993; Larson, 1988).

Unrealistic marital beliefs are based partly on beliefs about relationships. Unrealistic relationship beliefs are predispositions that bias a person toward interpreting intimate relationship events in an irrational manner (Kurdek, 1993). Unrealistic relationship beliefs are based on inaccurate expectations. Thinking that disagreements are inherently destructive to relationships. mindreading is possible, and that sexual interactions will always be completely satisfying are beliefs recognized by therapists and researchers as unrealistic relationship beliefs (Epstein & Eidelson, 1981).

Extremely high romantic beliefs also reflect unrealistic standards for a marital relationship. Overly high romantic beliefs are based on notions that love is sexually and emotionally stimulating, mysterious, and all encompassing (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986). Beliefs that capture extreme romanticism include. (a) love can overcome any barrier; (b) there is only one ideal partner out there for each person (i.e., a soulmate); (c) idealization of the relationship and partner; and (d) love at first sight. These romantic beliefs represent an endorsement of idealistic notions about marriage. Individuals strongly ascribing to such beliefs tend later to encounter disillusionment and disappointment (Huston. Niehuis, & Smith, 1997).

Multiple factors may contribute to the development of unrealistic marital beliefs. In general. individuals' beliefs about marriage are not based on systematic and formal training, but instead are developed from observing marriages (Baucom & Epstein. 1990; McDonald, 1981), being exposed to media images of marriage, and through other socializing agents that share cuttural values and norms. Unfortunately, media images and popular portrayals of marriage are likely to foster unrealistic beliefs. Romantic love is central to contemporary notions of marriage (Barich & Bielby, 1996). The ideology of romance promises love as an incredible force that can surpass huge barriers and can only be found with a 'soulmate' (Hendrick & Hendrick, 1986). Young people tend to marry expecting romantic, passionate love with their spouses. …

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