The limits of a technical concept of a good marriage: exploring the role of virtue in communication skills

J Marital Fam Ther. 2001 Jul;27(3):327-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2001.tb00328.x.


Teaching communication skills is one of the most common approaches used to improve couples' relationships. These skills are typically presented as content-free techniques that are value neutral. Yet, marital therapists frequently see that exercising communication skills, particularly in conflict situations, can be quite difficult, requiring personal strengths such as self-restraint, courage, generosity, justice, and good judgment. These personal strengths are virtues that are presupposed in communication skills and are necessary for their successful use. The traditional attempt to see marital therapy as value neutral has made it difficult to recognize the importance of these virtues. Therapists might be more effective if they could help couples to identify and cultivate underlying character strengths necessary for good communication. This paper presents an Aristotelian reading of virtues in marriage that can broaden our understanding of marriage and open new avenues for helping couples.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Marital Therapy / methods*
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Values*
  • United States