Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. John C. Meyer

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Dr. Charles H. Tardy

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

Dr. Keith V. Erickson

Committee Member 3 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 4

Dr. Eura Jung

Committee Member 4 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 5

Dr. Steven J. Venette

Committee Member 5 Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

In this study, couples shared their experiences adjusting to one of the members loss of sight. Through interviews, their narratives expressed their values, actions, inactions, successes, failures, needs, obstacles, and feelings. Participants explained their standpoint/perspective about vision loss, when it happened, how it affected them, how they reacted and responded, through hindsight how they thought they should have responded, and how they reconstructed a shared interpersonal relationship. Narratives about situations and events after the loss of sight revealed descriptions of their relationships and interactions with each other and other people in their circle. Through constant comparative analysis the individual narratives were compared; within a single interview, between interviews within the same group, interviews from different groups, in pairs at the level of the couple, and finally comparing couples. Eventually, the following related overarching themes emerged: communication, interdependency, identity (personal, enacted, and relational), learning curve, and deliberate living. In each of these themes, there were two distinct perspectives; a blind perspective and a sighted perspective.

The analysis revealed in many ways the couples adjusted to events and crisis, as most successful couples do, but often they had to be inventive and creative to bridge the gaps created by the loss of a common and, in many cases, independent form of communication. Without the convenience of visual nonverbal cues to either be a complete message or complete the message, participants found ways to restore interpersonal communication and allow them to grow together. At some point, their identity changed, or a new identity emerged. In all of the participants’ cases, the new identity did not become the primary identity, just another part of them as a whole. In summary, the participants presented themes, identities, and coping strategies which allowed them to continue as a couple when facing a life changing event, becoming blind, and becoming the sighted partner of a blind person.

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