Marriage and Family — 05 September 2004
Do you have the type of marriage you want?

Do you have the type of marriage you want?

Marriages, as all other contractual relationships come in a variety of interactive styles. Most people do not analyze their marital type but are aware whether or not it satisfies them.

Most marriages begin with the romantic phase of the relationship, which entails great joy, enthusiasm, excitement, love and intimacy. The pair spends a great deal of time with each other and they cherish their exchanges. With time, the idealization of the mate wanes and as reality sets different relational styles appear.

The Intimate Marriage
Some couples succeed in staying very connected and loving. They maintain their Intimate Marriage by keeping the focus on each other, creating healthy interactions, sharing responsibilities, having fun and feeling blessed to be together.
Their children are cared for lovingly and get a good role model of devoted parents, who are also a happy couple.

The Business Marriage

Couples who end up in this marriage style shift from the romantic love to a task-oriented connection with each other. They do not fight or argue, but use their energies to devise an efficient and well-executed division of labor. They run an efficient household, share the chores, pay the bills, organize their social and recreational activities and run the child care like a well oiled machine. They do not describe their marriage as unhappy, rather as a “good working partnership”. They accept that the early phase of being in love ended naturally and believe that living effectively is the natural evolution of a good marriage.

The Parallel Marriage

For these mates, the focus of attention shifted from being couple-centered to being self-centered. These pairs are often absorbed with their individual jobs, hobbies, personal friends, family and even separate vacations. This is a contract of convenience, in which they regard each other as important as all their other endeavors. Their parallel lives do not seem uncomfortable for them and they may not be unhappy in their marriage.

The Child Centered Marriage

This type of marriage creates a triangle (or several) between the parents and their child(ren). Each parent invests his greatest emotional energy in connecting with the child and through the child with the other parent. The glue of this marriage is the couples’ devotion to their children, to the exclusion of their intimate connection. All their interactions, plans, life’s details surround their children and little or no time is safeguarded for the couple. This style marriage may work temporarily well until the children grow up. Then, the parents often separate or reconstitute a new relationship.

The Divided Marriage

In this marriage you see one partner who is yearning for an intimate marriage, while the other prefers any other style of connection. This is commonly an unhappy marriage since neither partner gets his or her needs met. They may stay together unhappily, often complaining that the other partner has poor preferences.

The Others-Centered Marriage

In some marriages one spouse’s attention is primarily focused on other people such as parents, siblings, best friend, or even pets or charity work. If this connection interferes with the spouse’s comfort and creates conflict within the marriage, it must be addressed. If a partner feels left out, excluded and isolated, he or she loses the sense of being central to the mate. This style creates one very unhappy partner and another possibly addicted to the connection to others, which leads to an ineffectual marriage.

The Hostile Marriage

The attention of these mates is on each other, but in a negative way. They spent their energies connecting through criticism, sarcasm, name calling, discounting, and fighting for who is right and who is wrong. Needless to say, this is a destructive relationship. Yet, regrettably, there are people who know no other way of relating and find that the harsh exchanges are at least a form of getting a charge from the other person. That serves for them as evidence that they still matter to each other since they can still evoke each other’s ire. Amazingly, some of these marriages are very stable. They often have few friends since being around them is painful.

There are other styles of marriage. Identifying your style is of value in determining what, if anything gets in the way of your satisfaction and happiness. For some people the awareness that it is their style of interacting, rather than their basic personalities, aids in repairing their marriage.

If you want to identify your marriage style you may choose to consider the following:

® All styles of marriage may be fine, provided that both partners feel satisfied within it.
® Your style may be best defined by where your attention is primarily placed: on each other, on tasks, on yourself, the children, the original family, doing for others, etc.
® Are you pleased with the level of connection and intimacy with your mate?
® If you are not pleased, tell your mate what would improve your love connection. Ask your partner what can you do to please him or her more effectively.
® Devise a plan together of how to restructure your relationship to satisfy both of you.
® Needs do change. Periodically talk of the status of your marriage. Birthdays, anniversaries and other significant dates for you as a couple may be good reminders for a “state of the marriage” discussion.
® If you find that the solutions are elusive, get professional help.
® All people desire to feel that they are number one in their partner’s life. When that idea is damaged, hurt and pain can ensue.
® Though some people claim that they do not really desire an intimate relationship, most people thrive on loving and being loved. It is an achievable state with profound benefits. You deserve to create it for yourself, your partner and your children.

August 29, 2004

Related Articles

About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

(0) Readers Comments

Comments are closed.