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People get married with the expectation of happiness ever after, but it doesn’t always work out that way. There may be too many fights, too few good times and the sense that one and his/her spouse are growing farther apart rather than closer together.However, despite how good or sad marital life may look; understanding what professionals have discovered about marital satisfaction may help couples focus on how to improve their relationship.

Many people believe that, after the initial joy of getting married, the spark inevitably goes out of love and boredom sets in. Interestingly, researchers found that sometimes stresses originating outside the marriage can seriously affect the relationship, especially when spouses are less adept at problem-solving. However, unhappiness isn’t necessarily a result of boredom with each other or a sign that one’s relationship is doomed, but rather may be in reaction to challenges outside the relationship that can be dealt with and addressed.

Human development entails transition and accomplishment of developmental tasks at different stages. For example, the transition from adolescence to adulthood has been noted to be of high importance (Arnett, 2004; Montgomery & Cote, 2003). For this, Arnett (2000, 2004) conceptualized the transition from adolescence to adulthood as ‘emerging adulthood’. Similarly, Arnett (2004) postulates that the age range for attaining adulthood is approximately 18 to 25 years of age. Hence, section 29 (4) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) Constitution provides that legal age at which individual attains maturity and accountability is 18 years. At this point, social activities such as marriage, parenthood, occupational advancement, and child rearing are some of the significant markers that buttress maturity and adulthood. In Erikson’s sixth developmental stage intimacy versus isolation, individuals are faced with the task of forming intimate relationship with others. This relationship most times tends to be consummated into marriage. When healthy friendship takes place, an intimate relationship with another individual is formed, and intimacy will be achieved but if not the result is isolation. In this case, the marital relationship is threatened.

In view of the purpose that propel people into marriage;Relationship Indicators Survey conducted byRelationships Australia and Catholic University of American (2008)showed the following as reasons why people marry: “…For love, companionship, procreation, security for children, make public commitment to each other, legal status or for financial security, religious beliefs, response to family pressures, desire for a special occasion” For our Nigerian society, one adage that confirms her position on marital life opines that “a man without a wife is like a vase without flowers”; while “a woman without a husband is like a house without a roof”. May be this is probably why some men and women rush into marriage as to be counted or seen as being responsible. But some interesting questions that need to be answered include; are all marriages a bed of roses? To what extent are the couples happy and satisfied?In reference to these questions, Haidari, Zarei, and Sadeglifard (2013) maintained that one important aspect of the family system is the satisfaction that couples experience.Therefore, Ellis (1992)defined marital satisfaction as contentment, satisfaction and pleasure experienced by couples and believes that ignoring the other side’s interests and mind- set causes disappointment and frustration in the marital relationship.

As a prove of its essential nature, marital satisfaction has been linked to psychosocial benefits such as decrease in mortality rates, risk –taking behaviours, increase in health monitoring, sexual satisfaction, and compliance with medical regimen, financial saving and employment wages (Roger 1995; Waite & Gallagher, 2000).Contrary to the positive effects of marriage, separation and divorce have been linked with decrease in psychological well-being, increase in health problems, risk of mortality, social isolation, financial strain, negative life events (Amato, 2000; Cherlin& Furstenberg, 1994; Cowan & Cowan, 1992). Marital dissatisfaction is also associated with depression, mental illness, and substance use disorders and the disturbance of neurotransmitters such as the catechol amines, poor immunological functioning of the adaptive immune system (Kiecolt-Glaser and Newton, 2001). Other correlates include domestic violence or high risk of male aggression and female victimization (Bookwala, Frieze, & Grote, 1994; Edalati, & Redzuan, 2010). According to Hummel (2002), children in a family where couples are dissatisfied are often being maltreated and child maltreatment impinges on later relationship outcomes such as low interpersonal relationship in adulthood and relationship dissolution because of increasedanxiety among dissatisfied couples (parents). Marital dissatisfaction and/or marital conflict is also associated with important family outcomes such as poor parenting, poor adjustment of children, increased likelihood of parent-child conflict, conflict between siblings, adolescent psychological well-being and infidelity of the couple (Mahmood & Najeeb, 2013). For Mahmood and Najeeb(2013), as marital satisfaction decreases the likelihood of infidelity increases. Research by Marie (2012) showed that infidelity was attributed to marital problems by couples. However, Previti and Amato (2004) noted that infidelity could be both a cause and a consequence of marital dissatisfaction.

Statistics from the United States Bureau of Census (1992) reported that 52% of marriages ended in divorce. Data in 2010 from the Director General of Islamic Guidance Ministry of Religious Affairs states that two million (2,000,000) people are married and two hundred and eighty-five thousand, one hundred and eighty-four (285,184) marriages ended in divorce (Kompasiana, 2011). According to Almanac Book of Facts (1977), there were 12,000 cases of divorce reported every year in Nigeria since 1975. Issues of divorce come across different classes of people and religion in Nigeria such are high rated clergy, business magnates, and celebrities, politicians, etc. This suggests that marital dissatisfaction is widespread, affecting all cultures, race, religion and social class.

According to Esquer, Burnett,Baucom, and Norman (1997) and as pointed earlier, most people who enter into marital relationship have the expectation of a blissful and satisfying relationship. Marital satisfaction reflects the dream, wish or desire of individuals who are engaged or want to get married or are married. In other words, before any marriage is contracted each party involved usually has a picture of how his/her marital experience would look like in most cases a blissful one. For every marriage that are not moving smoothly, the parties involved continue to hope that the satisfaction or pleasant experience they were dreaming of before coming together will soon materialise.This dream sometimes materializesalthough sometimesit does not.

Because of the uniqueness of individuals, expectations, family upbringing, tradition and culture, religion, gender role and even one’s determination before getting married and focus/motive on its actualization when the marital vow was exchanged; marital satisfaction can mean several things to several individuals.For these reasons listed, it is possible that in marital relationship the two individuals can be satisfied; it is also possible that one of the marriage partners can be satisfied. It is equally possible that none of the parties are satisfied in the marital relationship. On the other hand, there are occasions where ‘forced’ if not ‘false’ satisfaction exists or can be experienced. This agrees with the rule of learned helplessness (Seligman, 1977) where satisfaction may not be real rather enforced adaptation to dissatisfaction or unpleasant experiences which normally could not give one satisfaction. For instance, a woman may claim to be satisfied in marriage because of her children and may not like to quit the marriage even when she is maltreated by her husband while a man who is experiencing ‘forced’ satisfaction may not quit because of his religious involvement or status in his religion claiming that all is well. Seligman, Fazio, and Zanna (1980) and Rempel, Holmes, &Zanna, (1985) in their studies on close relationships indicated that couples with intrinsic motivation report greater feelings of love and faith in their relationship while extrinsically motivated were less likely to expect to marry their partner when a desired outcome is not seen. Thus, internal process and personality variables are implied in choosing a partner and therefore likely to influence satisfaction in marriage.

Researcher Winch (2000) maintained that marital satisfaction is matching the current state and the desired state of marital relations. According to Winch’s definition (2000), when a person’s expectation of what his/her marriage would be is accomplished, marital satisfaction is said to have occurred. In the course of this study, the researchersampled the opinion of five(5) women who reflected the following issues to portray satisfaction in marriage: a wealthy and caring husband, having children and taking care of them; cooking delicacies for the entire family; harmony between their spouses; be cherished and receiving affection from their husbands; honesty, trust and fidelity; mutual share and/or division of responsibility and interests. It tend to be in line with this finding that DeGenova and Rice (2002) outlined four criteria for evaluating successful marriage as follows; marriages that have lasted for lifetime; but practically, staying together is not an indicator of satisfied marital relationship or happy marriage. Secondly, approximation of ideals in terms of extent of fulfilment of marital roles, expectation and ideals as perceived by the couples. Thirdly, fulfilment of psychological, social, sexual and material needs of each other. Lastly, the satisfaction from the conditions each spouse experience.

For men, their satisfaction may hover around business accomplishments; fat bank accounts irrespective of family expenditures; business investments; eating delicacies prepared by their wife; hanging out with friends; sometimes having a beautiful wife, having a submissive and caring wife, who they can confide in, and surrounded with lovely children. On a general note, the above could be seen as the pivot upon which marital satisfaction is hinged. But for Roach, Franzier, and Bowden (1981) satisfaction is attitudes, which like any perception, is subject to change overtime in relation to significant life experiences.

Although the parameters of marital satisfaction differed from one historical era to another;factors such as culture, religion, the law and education help to shape married people’s ideas of what a satisfying marital or affective relationship is (Lucas, Parkhill, Wendorf, Imamoglu, Weisfeld, Weisfeld, & Shen, 2008). Thus, marital satisfaction depends on the expectations of individuals as imposed by culture and social factors. Marital satisfaction is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon, implying that other external factors imbedded in the cultural milieu may influence how satisfied an individual may be.

In the traditional African setting which is the main focus of this study; where emphasis is placed on children with its sense of collectivisms, satisfaction relate to the way spouse is accommodated in her husband’s house, how her husband’s relatives accepted her and how her relatives is being treated. Cultural norms and popular perception of getting in to marriage early may mean that people marry out of social expectations and pressure thus leaving less time to study and understand the demands, interests, and characteristics of their prospective partners or learning social skills to navigate the marriage union. In our Nigerian culturefor example, some men and women enter into marriage early in order to avoid promiscuity or flirting, (kaachibaukwun’ulo, in Igbo language). Similarly, some marry at young age to derive their sexual desire within marital relationship. But surprisingly, many exchange marital vows as the case may be without the understanding of what they are going into; what it entails with respect to responsibility, adjustment, modification of character and lifestyle, commitment and desire or motive to make the marriage work. At this point, from the researcher’s point of view one can say that nobody has pre-experience of marital challenges before entering it; rather individuals take time to study existing ones, asking relevant questions, to avoid entering into it inadvisably.

One other important issue about marital satisfaction concerns when two persons with entirely different purposes, expectations, beliefs, values, attitude, mind-set, perception, come together in marriage.As always noticed clash of ideas, opinions, and values are inevitable. It may also result in friction, disappointment and loss of motivation for continuity of their marital relationship and even divorce. Generally, marital satisfaction a woman gets is different from marital satisfaction a man gets in marriage. But for these two persons, who are involved in marriage to have “corporate” marital satisfaction, there is need for compromise, otherwise there would not be or one may be enjoying satisfaction at the expense of the other. Another issue is that objectivity is side-lined in marital satisfaction. The assessment of whether one is satisfied in his/her marriage is dependent on the individual’s response to the questions that border on his/her opinions, expectations and experiences in the marriage.

One predictor that may have particular importance to marital satisfaction is gender role. As stated by Taylor, Peplau, and Sears, (1997) marital satisfaction enhances the subjective evaluation of couples engaged in marital relationship. Hence, an ideal marital satisfaction implies that both partners can enjoy life from the companionship characterized by lack of stress (distress) and unhappiness. A clear examination of the concept of gender role ideology seems to portray thatthe concept has been ignored in the exploration of marriage overtime despite evidence in the extant literature that points to differences in marital satisfaction for men and women (Johnson &Lebow, 2000; Walker 1999). Gender roles are the social and behavioural norms that are generally appropriate by a particular society for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship. In African cultural milieu – the major focus of the studyand inIgbo culture for instance; males who perform ‘female’ duties are considered as not being man enough, (nwoke – nwanyi, in Igbo language), bewitched by their wives, or incapable of controlling their homes. On the other hand, females who perform male roles in the family are considered insubordinate to their husbands (dim ejenakamjee, nnaga-alu or nwanyikanwoke, in Igbo language). But the question is; what aspect of the division of household/family do men perceive to be either fair or unfair? However in Africa largely, traditional gender-roles have been identified as a major source of satisfaction, especially for females. Stevens, Kiger, and Riley (2001) identified that satisfaction with the division of household labour is a useful predictor of marital satisfaction particularly for women due to apparent increasing dissatisfaction with coming home after work and completing a ‘second shift’ of household and child care.

Despite cultural influences, Bem (1978), a leading researcher in gender-role issues, theorized that androgynous individuals who could demonstrate both instrumentality and expressiveness, perform cross-sexual behaviour with little reluctance or discomfort by adapting to situations or by blending femininity and masculinity have better psychological health and wellbeing than those individuals who could not(Bem &Lenney, 1976).  The present study in view of family disruption among couples because of typical gender role postulates that this can be curbed if couples are to view their relationship as joint commitment.Furthermore, gender roles in relation to marital satisfaction also lies in what type of marriage being practiced.  Although the traditional family roles have marked changes in relation with different aspects of interpersonal commitments and responsibilities; women predicament is intensified.Hence, feminists see family as a dynamic and diverse system whose members are constantly changing and should not confined men or women to prescribed roles and so each individual in a family should play various roles and be functional in all of them (Heng- Haverkamp,2006). Married women who are not in the labour force are not exempted as there could be challenges of child rearing, domestic work and insufficient income for family needs. Couples strive for fulfilment of needs and when the needs are not met stress and dissatisfaction erupt.

The second variable of interest which plays role in marital satisfaction of couples is self determination. As the name implies, self-determination is concerned with supporting couples’ natural or intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways and gain knowledge or independence. Its emphasis is basically on motivation.However, according to  Deci and Ryan, (2000) people seem to be often moved more by external influences such as money, prizes, fame, social status, academic attainments/successes, family background and acclaim, people around them. In order to maintain a long lasting and happy marital relationship, partners involved are expected to perceive the upkeep of the relationship as a need that must be met. Happily, self-determination defines needs in various dimensions as it is embedded in the concept of motivation which is primary in the drive behind satisfaction (marital satisfaction) of basic psychological needs for wellbeing and development (Deci& Ryan, 2000; Gagne &Deci, 2005). Application of Self-determination theory can be seen in many life’s domains like close relationship (La Guardia & Patrick,2008).

Therefore, since self-determination and motivation are synonymous, Seligman,Fazio, and Zanna (1980) in confirmation of how self determination motivate couples to strive for marital satisfaction found that romantic partners who are involved in an intimate relationship for extrinsic reasons demonstrate lesser love with their significant order than individuals who are in a relationship for intrinsic reasons. Similarly, Rempel, Holmes, and Zanna (1985) suggested that love and relationship satisfaction are strongly associated with the type of motivation that drives both partners in relationship. Nowadays, it seems that the greatest level of self-determination that couples holds tends to be experienced in intrinsic motivation. In spite of the challenges in marriage even in failed marriages, the present research is concerned with the rate at which the traditional society advocates for successful marriage through the personal efforts of the people concerned and how individuals, particularly women desire and are curious to experience the satisfaction that comes from marriage at all cost.  In support of this, Santrock (2006) stated that in the light of socio-cultural influence on marriage, this has led to marital preferences in choosing a marriage partner (Santrock, 2006).

One common practice in our Nigerian setting during traditional wedding ceremonies is that parents encourage and admonish the new couples not to disregard each other and not allow third parties to interfere in their marital lives if they want their marriage to be a blissful one. All these acts are geared towards ensuring that the couples concerned are motivated in order to experience wellbeing and satisfaction in their marriage.For a long lasting and satisfying marriage, emphasis should be on intrinsic tendencies in the marriage. However, for marital satisfaction to be attained, intrinsic motivation should be encouraged to sustain passions, creativity, ideas and interest as well as effort with the end product of satisfying their basic needs. In order to achieve psychological growth, integration, constructive social development and personal wellbeing in marriages in line with the position of self-determination theory, the needs of competency (Harter 1978; White, 1963), relatedness (Baurmeister & Leary, 1995; Reis, 1994) and autonomy (deCharms, 1968; Deci, 1975) are expected to be satisfied.Cognitive evaluation as found in self-determination and motivation looks at the social and environmental factors that encourage or discourage intrinsic motivation. This also is applicable in marriage as the individuals concerned are responsible and accountable for choice of marriage and its outcome.

The concept that religion depicts humans as ardent worshippers by nature have probably given birth to numerous religions found all over the world particularly in African where religion and spirituality is woven in to the subconscious mind of individuals and society, as well as our marital life. In Nigeria, many would reply when asked the type of man/woman they would desire in marriage; “God-fearing (religious) man/woman” as everybody welcomes a belief system that supports constructive family behaviour and marital satisfaction. Parents even go to diviners and seersto confirm who the right person for their children in marriage is. Psychologists have begun to study the impact of religion on human development and functioning – marital satisfaction inclusive. Marriage which gives birth to marital satisfaction has been traditionally associated with religious ceremonies and affirmation (Haseley, 2006). Hence, religiosity can be described as part of marital relationship. Pittman, Price-Bonham and McKenry (1983) reported that religiosity refers to the extent to which an individual feels that religious beliefs influence his or her life. For Filsinger and Wilson (1984), religion makes marriage become more accepted and the couples become more martially satisfied. Religious beliefs tend to influence marriage and contribute to healthy family relationship as commitment to one’s religion and its activities shapes one’s behaviours and perception of each other to enhance the relationship. According to Nihayah, Adriani, and Wahyuni (2012), religiosity has a role in marital satisfaction because of its influence on a person’s mind-set and behaviour in marital living. This is obvious in women’s religious beliefs about relational commitment which plays a vital role in stability of their marriage. Thus, it is onus on a person in any religion to abide by the dictates of the religion.

Researchers Marks and Dollahite (2001)conceptualized three aspects of religiosity that influence relationship. They include faith community, religious practice, and spiritual belief. Therefore, the religious practises upheld and encouraged by a particular religion accepted and practiced by a couple would influence what and how they pursue marital satisfaction. Authors have identified varying presentations of religiosity in relation to marriage; denominational affiliation(Call & Heaton, (1997); homogamy or congruence of religious faith between partners (Heaton & Pratt (1990),Kohn, 2001; church attendance, Vaughan,(2001); prayer Butler, Stout &Gardner(2002); importance of religion (Snow &Compton 1996); religious commitment and religious style or orientation (Johnson 1997). As pointed by researchers Heaton and Pratt, (1990); Sullivan (2001) positive correlation exists between religiosity and marital satisfaction. Notwithstanding, some researchers have found no and or negative relationships between religiosity and marital satisfaction (Burchinal,1957). The inconsistencies in result could be as a result of definitions and measurement differences, contextual factors, and different components of religiosity (Haseley, 2006)and also could be as a result of the dimension of religiosity. Extrinsically motivated couples use their religion for social and personal interest while intrinsically motivated couples lives their religion and internalise the core spirituality of religion according to their inner value (Pace, 2014). The assertion of the present study is that influence of religiosity could be more substantial among couples in religious homogamy. Some researchers have found that marital satisfaction is higher between couples who have homogenous religion (Glenn & Supanic, 1984).

Statement of Problem

There is wide spread understanding that adhering to gender role expectations of women playing their home-keeping roles and men their bread winning role would guarantee a happy married life. But with the increase of women taking on bread winning and relieving the stress of breadwinning on the male folk, there is also a tendency of men to consider to start weighing in on domestic roles. However, the degree to which these adjustments are feasible in the Nigerian setting is less understood. The shift toward gender equality has resulted in the change of marital expectation, quality and marital satisfaction. Researchers are exploring marital satisfaction from the aspect of fairness in division of household labour as regards gender role orientations. Also, the  influence of being religious and how one’s determination seem to enhance marital satisfaction.This research therefore deemed it necessary to understand whether these variables gender roles orientation, religiosity and self-determination actually predict marital satisfaction. Specifically, the study is aimed at addressing the following research questions;


  • Will gender role orientations significantly predict marital satisfaction of couples?
  • Will religiositysignificantly predict marital satisfaction of couples?
  • Will self-determinationsignificantly predict marital satisfaction of couples?

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate the influence ofgender role orientation, religiosity, and self-determination in marital satisfaction. For this reason, the present study aims at examining whether:

  • There will be any relationship between gender role orientations on marital satisfaction
  • There will be any relationship between self-determination and marital satisfaction
  • There will be any relationship between religiosity and marital satisfaction
  • There will be any relationship between gender role orientation, self determination, religiosity andmarital satisfaction.

Operational Definitionof Terms

Marital Satisfaction: This refers to the level of happiness, satisfaction, and quality of marriage as subjectively evaluated by an individual toward the partner and the relationship as measured by Index of Marital Satisfaction Scale (Hudson, 1997).

Gender Role Orientation:This in this study refers to the masculinity, feminine, and androgenised traits which individuals may possess knowingly or unknowingly as measured using the Bem Sex Role Inventory – Short Form (1981).

Self Determination:This is defined as the ability to make up one’s mind to achieve happiness and success in marriage irrespective of all odd. Self-determination in this study could be interchangeably used with basic need satisfaction. This will be measured using three dimensions (relatedness, competence and autonomy) of Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction Scale in General (Gagne, 2003).

Religiositythe extent of dedication and commitment to the precepts of one’s religion and practice such as attendance to religious gathering, reading of religious books like Bible, Quran, giving part of one’s income for religious causes, devotional readings , one’s life centred on one’s religion, and application of one’s religious doctrine, values, beliefs in marital relationship and problem solving. This will be measured using the two dimensions (intrapersonal and interpersonal) of Religious Commitment Inventory – 10 (Worthington, et al, 2012)