Women's narratives about commuter marriage: How women in commuter marriages account for and communicatively negotiate identities with members of their social networks
The goal of the present study was to explore interaction between commuter wives and members of their social networks to provide insight into how these women negotiate their identities as commuter wives. While previous scholars suggested that interactions with social network members (such as family and friends) were an important source of affirmation or disconfirmation for commuting spouses, researchers have not undertaken systematic investigation of commuter spouses' interaction with social network members. The primary contribution of this study is that it examines communication between commuting spouses and members of their social networks and suggests the implications of these interactions for commuter wives' identities.
The study was grounded in the theoretical perspectives of symbolic interaction and narrative to illuminate the processes by which commuter wives and social network members negotiated identities for commuter wives. I conducted five focus groups and 50 individual in-depth interviews with commuter wives to examine messages received in interaction with social network members, the processes by which commuter wives interact and negotiate identity with social network members, and the identity-related themes of commuter wives' narratives.
Qualitative analysis of these data conducted from the interpretive paradigm revealed that commuter wives received four types of messages from networks members: questions, expressions of emotion, nonverbal messages, and reported speech. Commuter wives indicated they felt compelled by these messages to provide accounts to network members to explain their commuting arrangements. Commuter wives' accounts of their commuter marriages used justifications and excuses as attempts to construct and maintain positive identities in interaction with social network members. Commuter wives articulated experiencing their identities as "the best of both worlds" and/or as being "torn between two worlds."
Findings of the present study link the theoretical perspective of symbolic interaction and the literature on account-making. The unconventional marital arrangements of commuter wives essentially constituted a "failure event" for which social network members demanded an account. Interaction between commuter wives and their social network members involved the account-making process of elicitation, accounting, and evaluation. The present study contributes knowledge concerning how individuals construct unconventional relationships as legitimate through accounts to network members.