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What Type of Marriage Do You Have?

What Type of Marriage Do You Have?

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.

It should come as no surprise that there are different kinds of marriages. However, research has shown that some marriages are more prone to divorce than others.

There are five types of marriages, according to Mavis Hetherington, who just published the final results of over thirty years of studying divorced and stepfamilies in her latest book, For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (W.W. Norton, 2002).

The marriage which is most likely to end in divorce is the pursuer-distancer marriage in which one spouse - 80 percent of women in Hetherington's research - presses for more intimacy while the other spouse withdraws in the face of such pressure. Of course, the more the wife seeks intimacy, the more the husband withdraws, which only forces the wife to pursue more.

The husband may then tire of his wife's nagging but more often the wife gives up pursuing. Surprisingly, this may then alarm the husband but it may be too late. The wife may want out.

The disengaged couple has the second highest divorce rate. These are two people who have drifted apart and simply stopped loving each other. They don't fight often because they don't care. Their marriage ends with a whimper rather than a bang.

The operatic couple, which is third in the rate of divorce, is the opposite of the disengaged couple. There is plenty of strong emotions in the spouses' interactions. They fight passionately but they make love passionately also. In fact, they expressed the most sexual satisfaction in their love lives.

The potential problem with the operatic couple is that their fighting may become more intense and frequent than their love-making which can then strain the marriage to the breaking point. But because of the passion in their sex life, operatic couples often have trouble finally ending their marriage as they vacillate between reconciliation and divorce.

A more stable marriage is the cohesive/individuated marriage. This involves the couple who has achieved a balance between togetherness and separateness which is satisfactory for both. They have successfully resolved what I call the individuality within unity dilemma. They can be themselves and yet still feel bonded to each other without losing their sense of individuality. To accomplish this, they each have good self-esteem and secure ego boundaries.

The couple which is least likely to divorce has a traditional marriage. But it only works if the wife is willing to accept the traditional role. If she changes and decides she wants a career or equal power with her husband, the marriage can be stressed.

So what kind of marriage do you think you have? If it is the first three - the pursuer-distancer, the disengaged or the operatic - you may have to make some changes to better insure it's survival.


About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.

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