The purpose of this study was to better understand how virtues and values affect marital intimacy. Ten married couples were given a marital satisfaction assessment and participated as individuals in 1-1/2 hour interviews which were audiotaped and then transcribed. Using grounded theory and also the constant comparative method, researchers were able to generate a theory involving a core theme of showing love for self and other, which strongly contributes to increased intimacy. This process is connected to living virtues and to becoming other-oriented. Two different ways of "being" were found to be connected both with showing love, living virtues, increasing intimacy: other-orientation (a focus on the other including her well-being) and self-orientation (a primary concern with meeting one's own needs and desires above all else). These orientations were connected with secure attachment style and insecure attachment styles, respectively. Secure attachment was connected with sets of beliefs and thoughts, affect, and behavior characteristic of this way of being that increase security in the relationship. Orientation and attachment style, whether other-oriented and secure or self-oriented and insecure, seemed to be mutually determining. A Virtue Cycle connected with these processes was described, in which one who lives virtues genuinely towards their partner often experiences an increased love for their partner and closeness in the relationship. The receiver often perceives virtuous actions given by her partner to be a sign of his love for her, which leads to feeling loved and feeling closer, and wanting to give to partner which leads her to increase her living of virtues, increasing her other-oreintation. Living of virtues was generally associated with increased intimacy for both Other-oriented and Self-oriented couples, though increases were greater and more lasting in Other-oriented (OO) couples. Implications are discussed.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage and Family Therapy



Date Submitted


Document Type





virtues, values, marital intimacy, intimacy, morality, marriage and family therapy