Four Styles of Marriage


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Four Styles of Marriage

One of the most interesting bits of wisdom presented to us regarding marriage styles was shared by some very dear, more relationally experienced friends.

They have traveled the world, talked with people everywhere, and seen the same patterns over and over again.

They named these patterns the “Four Styles of Marriage” – with a huge caveat. Like most everything on this planet, relationships don’t fit neatly into one style. Nor do most relationships stay in one style through time. That said, couples tend to gravitate toward, or relate to, one style more than the other three.

Here they are, word for word…

1. My Thing

Obviously the “my thing” method does not have any element of agreement to it. It is an in your face ultimatum: “Here is what I am going to do. You have to figure out your life in relationship to what I am going to do.” It may be more subtle and not be so confrontational but it is an ultimatum style in any case.

2. Horse Trading

This style is a bartering method in which you give in order to get. Each person wants to do their own thing but realizes that they have to be fair about it and let the other person do their own thing as well. It is an honest and best effort attempt to be fair about letting each person have equal opportunity to do what they want. It is distinguished from “my thing” in that each person recognizes that the other person should be treated fairly.

3. Mutual Support

The mutual support method raises Horse Trading to a higher level by recognizing that we have agreed that what we want in our marriage is to have two loosely connected lives in which we each can become and do what we want in such a way that there is little involvement in each other’s sphere of activity. It is more about designing a style of life that combines two mostly separate spheres of activity. It is distinguished from Horse Trading in that it recognizes agreeing on a style of life rather than trying to be fair about trading.

4. Partnership

Partnership on the other hand is a method to build a common dream in which both parties are equal and active participants in building the dream together. Unlike Mutual Support, Partnership implies two highly integrated lives in which both people have significant participation with the role the other has. It is two people building a common dream together. There may be joint spheres of activities and there might be separate spheres of activities. There may even be spheres of mutual support activities in which only one person has the responsibility and activity. The distinction is that the common dream is the focus. This contrasts with the mutual support method in which the focus is the agreement to having separate lives rather than a common dream they both build together.

Do marriage counselors, pastors, and priests talk with young couples about these things before the wedding? Well, if they don’t, they may want to. Ask yourself which of these styles best reflects your go to relationship style… and if it’s not number four, what conversations, actions, tendencies, personality traits need to be addressed in order to get there? Conversely, if you’re with someone who won’t talk about these things, you may have already answered that question.

NOTE: I just now realized something. We’re not writing about how to survive marriage. We’re writing about how to be happy in it. Not just surviving, but thriving.

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