Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)


Clinical Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

John Thoburn

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Lynette Bikos

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Gwyn Hoffman-Robinson


Serial monogamy developed as the salient pair bond form in earlier times due to environmental pressures of disease, famine, and death that led to relationships organized around the instrumental tasks of procreation and child-rearing. Contemporary advancements in longevity, gender equality, and contraception have shifted the culture, but the serial monogamy paradigm remains the prominent relationship paradigm in the United States today with relationships primarily ending in divorce instead of death. The negative effects of divorce on individuals, children and families suggest the need for a new paradigm for marriage, a shift from instrumentally driven serial monogamy to enduring marriage organized around intrinsic relationship variables. The majority of marriage research has focused on marriages of 20 years or less, leaving a gap in the marriage literature on long term marriage. The present grounded theory qualitative study aimed to understand the systemic environment of an enduring marriage in order to explore the reasons couples remain together and the components influential in enduring marriage. Seven men and women in the United States participated in this research study. Individuals who have experienced a continuous, long-term marriage for 35 years or more participated in one in-person or tele-interview that lasted a maximum of two hours. Thematic data analysis revealed an ecosystemic model of enduring marriage that consists of 21 themes, nine categories, and four concepts representing participant’s experiences of enduring marriage. The four concepts that emerged from the data include: (a) individual experiences, (b) relational processes, (c) relational dynamic, and (d) community. Interconnecting all the concepts to represent the influence of societal and developmental change over time is the chronosystem. The model highlights consistencies with previous marriage research on factors that contribute to healthy marriages and expands upon the previous knowledge to further define the concept of enduring marriage, including factors that uniquely impact enduring marriages. Systems-based clinical interventions are discussed as findings emphasize the importance of implementing interventions that target intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors. Future research is encouraged to expand this study’s initial findings related to enduring marriage.