The research paper “The relationship between personal values and couples satisfaction, mediated by mental well-being and dyadic coping mechanisms under stress” is aimed at identifying the connection between personal beliefs/values and couple satisfaction, taking into account the level of stress and couple strategies in stressful conditions (dyadic coping). The main question we were trying to answer is “How do personal values influence satisfaction in a couple, mediated by mental well-being and dyadic coping mechanisms under stress?”
The scientific motivation of such a theme is that the divorce rate is increasing. At country-level statistics show worrying divorce rates, reaching over 45-50% around the globe. (Europe, America, Australia, Saudi Arabia – according to the centers of national statistics, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/divorce-rates-by-country). Also, self-awareness and management of personal values differences leading to couple dissatisfaction, is far from being exhausted in the literature.
A study published by PubMed Central in 2016 (Timmons A., 2016) shows that the daily stress factors that affect one person also affect the other, having a negative impact on marital functioning. Work, health problems, financial concerns and the need to make difficult decisions were the main stressors. On days when both spouses experienced high levels of stress, conflict was greater due to reactivity and the difficulty of recovering from stressful events.
We propose as the main objective of the research to investigate the relationship between the following variables:
Conceptualization of personal values; positive & negative consequences on couple dynamics
Already the literature showed a positive relationship between shared values (parenting values, relationship orientation) and marital happiness. The granularity of the values however was not very high.
• Shared parenting values are the set of beliefs that a parent can have in order to be a parent. Parents who can agree on how to discipline and raise their children tend to be happier.
• Couple similarity in relationship-oriented values was positively associated with life satisfaction and predicts marital satisfaction
• The value of financial stability. Economic growth positively correlated to the religious beliefs of individuals in society, but negatively correlated to actual church attendance. Individual religious’ beliefs can improve economies by encouraging a strong work ethic, honesty, and thrift. Therefore, couples who share religious values will report a stronger financial situation and stability than those who do not share religious values.
• Ironically, individuals who focus exclusively on improving individual (financial) well-being, generate decreased marital well-being by increasing selfishness and deteriorating stability (individualism and self-isolation).
Amongst other factors with an effect in reducing couple satisfaction, the following have already been studied:
• Personality traits: couples high in neuroticism experience lower levels of marital satisfaction, couples high in conscientiousness are more satisfied with their marital life.
• Low commitment and deficits in interpersonal skills (communication, problem solving, coping) are more likely to be perceived as reasons for divorce
• Everyday stress (mundane daily events) and stress build-up are one of the main reasons that contribute to their decision to divorce (trigger factor). (Bodenmann G., 2007, The role of stress in divorce: A three-nation retrospective study)
• Poor mental health is an important predictor of marital dissatisfaction (Shahi A, 2011)
• Financial coherence is a family wish; on the one hand, increased financial well-being can trigger strong negative emotions in relationships involving control, disrespect, the exercise of power, feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem; at the same time, financial insecurity remains a significant source of tension and conflict in romantic and family relationships.
• Perceptions of general dyadic coping by the partner and by both partners together were stronger predictors of relationship satisfaction than perceptions of general dyadic self-coping. Aggregated positive forms of dyadic coping were a stronger predictor of relationship satisfaction than aggregated negative forms of dyadic coping. Comparisons of dyadic coping dimensions indicated that shared collaborative coping, supportive coping, and delegated coping were stronger predictors of relationship satisfaction than stress communication, hostile/ambivalent coping, protective coping, and over-protectiveness.
Aspects to be researched:
• Personal values - greater granularity has potential to increase utility in addressing couple satisfaction, as well as in understanding the impact on depressive mood and subjective mental well-being (Jarden A, 2010, Relationships between personal values , and depressed mood and subjective well-being)
• Mental health has been studied in correlation with marital satisfaction in its very broad sense, emotional, psychological and social well-being, influencing cognition, perception and behavior; we will measure mental well-being in the narrower sense of stress: relaxation, active energy, rest, depressed or anxious mood, interest in the activity
• It has not yet been studied how personal values and mental well-being influence engagement in dyadic coping mechanisms.
Procedure for selecting research participants
A homogeneous number of approx. 300 participants were contacted, (134 respondents – approx. 45% response rate), located geographically mainly in Europe, mostly of Romanian origin (58%) but relocated to other countries; total relocated from one country to another 59% and with an almost equal mix of mono-cultural couples (54%) vs. intercultural (46%), aged between 18-65, English speakers and in a couple relationship with or without children. The group was formed by means of random sampling, inviting participants of both sexes, married or not, in order to be able to observe if the socio-demographic conditions influence the dynamics of the psychological variables.
The preliminary results show that all 6 initial hypotheses are validated:
1. The higher the level of achievement, the higher the negative dyadic coping by the partner.
2. The higher the level of achievement, the lower the satisfaction in the couple. The increase in aspects of achievement, especially correlated with aspects of perfectionism, prioritization of career and tangible financial aspects to the detriment of the family, scientific understanding, can lead to a reduction of satisfaction in the couple.
3. The higher the level of environmental concern, the higher the dyadic supportive coping
4. The higher the level of health and activity, the higher the dyadic supportive coping of the partner. Increasing concern for health and activity, correlated with self-care and body, good physical shape, lead to increased couple satisfaction, together with concerns for mental well-being: relaxation, good mood, rest, interest activity.
5. The higher the level of scientific understanding, the higher the partner’s negative dyadic coping
6: The higher the level of mental well-being, the higher the satisfaction in the couple. Increasing the skills related to positive dyadic coping, listening, emotional validation, empathy, taking over tasks or prioritizing the partner’s needs (giving) lead to an increase in couple satisfaction.
Following the study, secondary results were obtained that can be the subject to future researches:
The higher the achievement level, the more:
a. The dyadic coping to support the partner decreases (Pearson -0.245**, p-value 0.004)
The more the concern for the environment grows, the more
a. The communication of stress to the partner increases (Pearson r 0.193*, p-value 0.025)
b. The delegated coping to the partner increases (Pearson r 0.172*, p-value 0.047)
The more the concern for others grows, the more
a. The communication of stress to the partner increases (Pearson r 0.211*, p-value 0.014)
b. The partner’s supportive coping increases (Pearson r 0.214*, p-value 0.013)
c. Coping delegated to oneself increases (Pearson r 0.302***, p-value <0.001)
The more creativity increases, the more:
a. Self-delegated coping increases (Pearson r 0.242**, p-value 0.005)
The more loyalty increases, the more
a. The communication of stress to the partner increases (Pearson r 0.253**, p-value 0.003)
b. Coping delegated to oneself increases (Pearson r 0.177*, p-value 0.041)
The more independence increases, the more
a. Negative dyadic coping by the partner increases (Pearson r 0.193*, p-value 0.025)
The more spirituality increases, the more
a. The mental well-being increases (Pearson r 0.211*, p-value 0.015)
The more mental well-being increases, the more:
a. Joint collaborative dyadic coping increases (Pearson r 0.174*, p-value 0.044)
Suggestions and practical proposals
Divorce and marital dissatisfaction can have various negative consequences, including emotional, psychological, social and economic effects.
The emotional and psychological consequences can include feelings of guilt, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression and stress for both partners, especially if there are children involved. Divorce can also lead to a loss of identity, self-esteem and purpose, which can affect mental health.
Social consequences can include strained relationships with friends and family, as well as difficulties with co-parenting, custody arrangements and financial support. Children may also experience social and emotional difficulties such as academic problems, behavioral problems and low self-esteem.
The economic consequences may include a decrease in financial stability and an increase in financial stress. One or both partners may have to adjust to a lower standard of living and may struggle with managing household finances and expenses.
Therefore, it is important to address relationship problems early and seek help if necessary to prevent divorce and minimize negative consequences.
The current research brings some additional elements that can be an integral part of individual or couple’s psycho-education and therapy programs, including:
1. Increasing awareness of aspects related to values:
a. the inventory of personal values
b. the importance of identifying common couple values
c. increasing awareness of the values that increase couple satisfaction: concern for the environment, concern for health and activity, spirituality / religiosity, creativity, loyalty
d. as well as increasing awareness of values that lead to reduced couple satisfaction: achievement, scientific understanding
2. Highlighting and practising some elements of positive dyadic coping
a. Communication of stress to and by the partner
b. Dyadic coping to support the partner (support, listening, empathy)
c. Dyadic coping delegated to the partner (the partner takes over)
d. Dyadic coping delegated to self (example: I take over things to help the other partner)
e. Common collaborative dyadic coping
Positive dyadic coping mechanisms are ways couples can support each other during times of stress and adversity. Some examples of positive dyadic coping mechanisms include: active listening, validation, problem solving together, emotional support, physical affection.
3. Concern for increasing mental well-being
a. Exercise, sleep, nutrition, social support, mindfulness, therapy,
b. Medication: Medication may be needed to manage the symptoms of mental illness. Consultation with a mental health professional is necessary.
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