Understanding Three Types of Marital Relationships


Understanding Three Types of Marital Relationships
Three kinds of marital unions and their strong differences make a big difference in one's happiness.

In the years that I have been working with couples, I have seen that there are three basic kinds of marriages.  There can be some overlap in the types; but it helps to understand all three, and their uniqueness.  I share this categorization because it can help individuals to understand some of the reasons why they may not be fulfilled in their marriages. 

If you are one of those who feels lonely and frustrated in your marriage, I hope that the following can help you understand why.  And, if this is the case, I hope you will consider receiving counseling to better understand your options.  I also want to assure you that I have seen those in all three of the models described change and improve the qualities of their marriages and their family lives.


The Striving for Intimacy and Communication Marital Relationship :  In this marriage there is a commitment to the relationship and an understanding that the two partners will strive to be whole people who care for each other deeply and devotedly.  The growth of each is important to them.  Partners in this type of union see themselves together because of a need to love, but not control the other person.  They understand the importance of "give and take" and compromise.  Also, there is an understanding that the marriage itself in a living entity, and both couples must give to it, or it cannot flourish.  The basis of this quality of marriage is self and mutual respect.  Each partner realizes that this kind of marriage takes time and work.  An important sentence in this kind of union that should be asked with regularity is, “How is our marriage working for you?”  And the partners take each other’s statements to their hearts.  The benefits of this quality of marriage are many, including feelings of fulfillment and safety, and a lack of loneliness.  Children benefit deeply for this kind of union.  


The Business Model Marriage:  In this relationship there is a commitment to one’s business and a deep, shared involvement that the business succeed.  The business can be one of many types:  It can be the one that supports the family financially, or it can be a family, social or political heritage that a couple is deeply invested in protecting.  Sometimes the “business” is a strong involvement in the well being of children and grandchildren.  This relationship often involves discreet sexual liaisons (or attempts to keep them discrete) outside of the marriage.  Even so, there usually remains a loyalty between the couple, which precludes divorce.  This marriage works well if each member of the couple is comfortable with it.  I have seen one partner pretend to be comfortable in order to stay married, yet feel lonely, longing for a closeness that is not available.  This leads to deep tension in the home, impacting on the emotional heath of the unhappy partner and the children.

Article contributed by
Advanced Member

SaraKay Smullens


I look forward to your thoughts and sharing with you.

To be continued,

SaraKay Smullens, MSW, BCD, LCSW, ACSW, CFLE, CGP 

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Credentials: BCD, MSW
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