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Moral Talk Across the Lifespan

Creating Good Relationships


Edited By Vince Waldron and Douglas Kelley

Grounded in path-breaking research but written in an accessible, engaging style Moral Talk Across the Lifespan explores how our most fundamental moral commitments are shaped by crucial conversations with family members, romantic partners, and friends. Taking a lifespan approach, the authors demonstrate that moral growth is a continual process, one stimulated by transitions (e.g., leaving home for university) and disruptive events (serious illness). With chapters penned by leading relationship scholars, the volume contributes original thinking, data, and innovative theoretical pathways for researchers. For instructors it explores pressing moral questions encountered by students in their own relationships with romantic partners, friends, parents, and other family members. When is revealing a secret the right thing to do? Is revenge ever a worthy response to an insult or sleight? Why are young adults persuaded to accept some of their parents’ values but not others? Is there a right (or wrong) way to support a parent facing a terminal illness?
Moral Talk Across the Lifespan offers a stimulating blend of social science research and moral reflection. It is a key text for courses in Relational Communication, Family Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Communication Ethics.
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Chapter Four:Just Marriage


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Just Marriage


“I always have to initiate.” “You never help with the kids.” “I can’t get a word in edgewise!” “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” Couples, almost instinctively, know when their relationship, or parts of their relationship, is out of balance, unequal, unfair. One lens with which relational partners view their marriages is justice (Canary & Stafford, 2007; Kelley, 2012a; 2012b). The recognition of relationship dynamics, such as equity, inequality, power, bargaining and distribution, attribution, and guilt, reveal a justice ethic that is present in the communication interactions of personal relationship partners (Bierhoff, Buck, & Klein, 1986; Greenberg & Cohen, 1982; Stafford, 2003).

While various forms of justice are manifest in personal relationships, distributive justice, often conceptualized as equity (Adams, 1965; Homans, 1961, 1974; Cohen & Greenberg, 1982), has been identified as a significant feature of intimate relationships. For example, Canary and Stafford (1992; Stafford & Canary, 2006) have identified equity as a significant component of marriage maintenance, though there has been some debate as to the role of distributive justice in married partners’ decisions to maintain their relationships (Canary & Stafford, 1992, 2007; Ragsdale & Brandau-Brown, 2005, 2007; Stafford & Canary, 2006). In addition, it has been suggested that procedural justice is the key component in analyzing whether any given dispute resolution is just (Thibaut & Walker, 1975). ← 75 | 76 →

The focus of this essay is to examine couples’ interpersonal forgiveness narratives...

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