Introduction

We work hard to accomplish our personal goals such as getting a promotion on the job, expanding our business, getting an advanced degree, and much more. However, it is rare to hear someone casually speak about improving their marriage.

A passage in the Bible states that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6). The word “knowledge” in that passage is not referring to a mental or intellectual exercise. It wasn’t referring to, for example, more knowledge of calculus or physics. It is referring to a relationship with God.

I believe the same principle applies to marriages. Marriages are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. Here I mean knowledge in the intellectual sense and the relationship sense. Marriages are destroyed or do not reach their full potential because the couple does not know each other and they don’t have any knowledge about marriage and what makes it work or fail.

We spend a lot of time educating ourselves about other goals but neglect something that affects them all, which is realizing that there are many kinds (or expectations) of marriages.

There are many different kinds of marriages that many may not be aware of. I’ve been married for over 32 years and has been a constant exercise of self and spousal discovery. You don’t fully know yourself or your spouse especially when you were first married. You will always discover things about your spouse, and yourself,  as time goes by with them.

One of the issues that I became aware of as I observed other’s marriages and studied marriage is that people may enter marriage with different expectations. The husband may expect one kind of marriage and the wife may expect or assume another. Not understanding the different kinds of marriage can contribute to a longstanding conflict within the relationship that neither husband nor wife may be aware of.

The thing is, though, that even if the couple have long, intimate, and detailed discussions about marriage before the wedding day, they still may not realize that they are talking different languages so to speak. For example, the husband may express his desire and expectation for intimacy and togetherness as a priority. The wife may concur, but in her mind, intimacy and togetherness may mean something different.

What I would like to do in this article is to make you aware of the different kinds of marriages. My focus here is not on how one gets married, rather the relationship. For example, a marriage can be an arranged marriage, same-sex marriage, interracial, etc. Those do not describe the relationship between the husband and wife, but rather is focused on how one gets married. I want to focus on the relationship and not how the couple became married.

Trial Marriage

In a trial marriage, the couple enters into a contract with each other to be married for a specified amount of time without children. They then decide to split or renew their marriage when the time is up. This is a way that couples can try out marriage.

This type of marriage tends to prohibit the sense of commitment because they both know that marriage can end sometime in the future if they are not satisfied. This can cause a mindset to develop of not working hard to make the marriage work. Instead, if things don’t go their way, then they know they can end it and try again with someone else.

Companionship Marriage

In a companionship marriage, the couple marries for social reasons.  They marry for friendship, companionship, someone to socialize with and to do things together. Romance is not a factor in this type of marriage and, therefore, an emotional connection is not a priority. They are more concerned about being friends than being intimate with each other. That is not to say that they will not have intimate moments as husband and wife.

The problem with this kind of marriage is that it does not lend itself to commitment. The couple merely wants to be friends without creating an intimate bond with each other. Issues that arise between them could easily lead to the relationship ending since they weren’t committed to each other in the first place.

A married couple may find themselves operating as if their marriage is merely a companionship relationship.  Any intimate connection has dissipated and they come to be friends, or worse, coworkers, which we will discuss later in this article.

Parenting marriage

In a parenting marriage, the couple is married because of children. The premise is to raise the children and provide a healthy environment for them. They promise to remain married until the children are on their own. Romance is not necessarily a part of the agreement. They may or may not remain together after the children are gone.

Even couples who didn’t get married for children may find that their marriage has degraded into a children-centric relationship. Their life is spent caring for their children while neglecting their relationship. They become guardians instead of a married couple who has children.

Then again, some people get married subconsciously only to provide a morally accepted environment for children, i.e., they want “legitimate” children. One or both may go into marriage with this mindset. For example, a woman may desire to get married because she wants children and marriage is the religiously acceptable way to have children. When children enter the relationship, the husband may be neglected as the wife pours herself into the children.  The same can apply to the husband.

Safety/Convenience Marriage

A safety or convenience marriage is when a couple gets married for certain benefits such as financial, health insurance, education, etc. They see the marriage as a safety net while they pursue their individual. Romance is not necessarily a factor in this marriage. The couple in this kind of marriage will have their own separate set of hobbies, friends, activities, etc.

This is another kind of marriage where commitment is not a priority. Marriage, in this case, is more like a business deal than an intimate connection between a man and a woman.

Even though a marriage may not start as a convenience marriage, it may morph into one. A couple may find themselves gradually growing apart until their relationship is held together by the benefits or advantages of being married than it is a union between two souls.

Therefore, a married couple should always monitor their relationship so that they can make course corrections to avoid being disengaged with each other.

Disengaged Marriage

A disengaged marriage usually indicates serious problems with the relationship. The couple becomes emotionally and intimately disengaged from each other. They don’t talk to each other much nor do they spend much time together. Of course, sexual intimacy is virtually nonexistent in the relationship. They become more apathetic towards each other as the disengagement increases.

The couple desires to have their own space, sometimes even living in separate homes. However, disengaged couples can remain under the same roof. Free time is typically spent apart from each other. They are like ships passing in the night.

Of course, couples normally do not enter marriage in a disengaged state. They become disengaged as their relationship crumbles.

Open Marriage

An open marriage is one in which the husband and wife may have other partners besides each other. Marriage to them is for stability, not monogamy. Those who accept open marriages believe that the traditional marriage paradigm is outdated.

Typically a couple will consent to enter an open marriage relationship. However, the act of having another partner or partners without the spouse’s consent is a clear indication that something is very wrong with the relationship. In this case, it is not an open marriage, but simple infidelity that has spawned.

Therefore, a couple should manage their emotional connection. Typically an open marriage or one in which infidelity has risen is about sex in some way. It is unlikely that an open marriage is thought of as having a partner to go shopping with, do chores with, etc. It usually means having sexual relations with someone other than your spouse whether agreed to or due to infidelity.

A couple needs to work to meet the sexual and emotional needs of each other. This will help protect the marriage from infidelity and preserve their emotional connection.

Covenant Marriage

The covenant marriage, also known as the traditional marriage, is when a couple makes a covenant (vow) with each other. They vow to be together exclusively until one dies, though many traditional marriages also end in divorce. This kind of marriage is between one man and one woman.

This kind of marriage is based on a promise or vow between the husband and wife. It is not based on romantic love, though that is assumed in most cases. This means that romantic love is something that the couple has to purposely work to maintain in their relationship. It will not happen automatically because romantic love is not self-sustaining.

Therefore, a covenant is the foundation of the marriage and the romantic love that is fueled by their efforts to sustain it.

Romantic Marriage

Romance, sensuality, and love are the foundations for a romantic marriage. These couples enjoy sex, intimacy, and sensuality with each other throughout the marriage. Their focus is on each other romantically and almost everything else is secondary, even the children.

Couples in this kind of marriage appear to be stuck in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. They are deeply into each other and can therefore seem to be irresponsible with other duties and responsibilities.

A romantic marriage may be initiated by the typical traditional wedding where vows are given.  However, the vows are merely a formality because the true foundation of this kind of marriage is romantic love.

This may sound wonderful, but romantic love is fragile since it is based on emotions. A level of commitment is necessary to sustain romantic love and the relationship.  A marriage based on romantic love is in danger of collapsing when trouble hits the relationship.

Lop-Sided Marriage

This type of marriage is when one spouse purposely works to establish a happy marriage, but the other seems to be uninterested in working on the relationship. One spouse pursues those things that would improve or enhance their relationship, such as marriage education products, marriage books, etc.  However, the other spouse shows no interest in learning about marriage to improve their relationship or to make it better.

The spouse who works to establish a happy marriage or make it better may begin to feel as though their spouse is apathetic about the relationship. They may begin to feel that their spouse is married for ulterior motives and not to spend a life together or the like. This could cause resentment and eventually disengagement in the relationship. The other spouse may not realize what happened.

The complication here is that the spouse who seems to be disinterested in working on the marriage may indeed be interested in the relationship. They simply don’t know to work at marriage. They may have entered into marriage thinking that love was enough and never put any effort into working on it. Their ignorance is silently causing conflict in the marriage.

A marriage can last for decades in this condition because the one spouse continues to work on the marriage. However, there may come a time when he or she becomes wary of working on the marriage and begins to disengage. Their spouse may interpret the disengagement personally not realizing the true cause. The result is that the couple may grow apart not realizing what was the cause of the disengagement.

Sexless Marriage

A sexless marriage is a marital relationship in which they have little or no sex. The reasons for a sexless marriage may vary. It could be psychological, physical pain, or a medical condition that causes a lack of desire for sex. It could also be a spouse’s disposition towards sex.

Sexual intimacy in marriage is important. It is the basis for expressing or receiving romantic love. It is a way that a married couple can connect emotionally with each other.  Without sex, that emotional connection can fade away.

A sexless marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that the marriage is in trouble. Some couples are okay with little to no sex. Perhaps they have a relationship that is not based on an emotional connection. Perhaps they are fine with being friends, companions, without an emotional connection.

However, problems ensue when one spouse wants sex and the other is indifferent to it. The relationship will experience issues if the sexual and emotional cravings are not met by the spouse. In this case, a sexless marriage is a sign that the couple is disengaging or disengaged and therefore, drifting apart.

Functional Marriage

A functional marriage is a marital union in which the couple operates as if their union is a business or based on responsibilities. Romance and intimacy are not a factor in this type of marriage. They pay the bills, go on vacations together, have projects together (e.g., DIY home projects), and get things done. However, they are not intimately engaged with each other.

They may be able to coordinate their separate tasks in such a way that there is some harmony. However, that harmony is not much different than the harmony in a workplace when employees work well together.  I call this kind of marriage Household, Inc. The couple becomes roommates instead of being soulmates. They are mere employees in Household, Incorporated.

A functional marriage is not necessarily a bad thing unless one spouse wants more intimacy. The couple may work well together in meeting responsibilities, but become increasingly disengaged as one spouse’s emotional needs consistently go unmet.

Therefore, a married couple should consistently monitor their emotional connection and make corrections if they notice it faltering.

Summary

There are many kinds of marriage. Some people enter a particular kind of marriage knowingly. However, some marriages may deteriorate or morph into a different kind of marriage. The premise here is that a couple is married to each other with no other partners and that they are committed to each other and the relationship.

A married couple should, therefore, have intimate conversations about their goals, pains, and their marriage. Both should take the initiative to discuss and work on their marriage (avoiding the lop-sided marriage). A married couple should consistently monitor their marriage to determine what state it is in and make adjustments as necessary.

It is also important to understand that things may not be how they appear. A spouse who appears to be disinterested in an intimate relationship may instead be ignorant about what it takes to maintain one. They may believe that love is all they need or they may be clueless about the need to purposely working on the relationship. This is why communicating with each other is so vital.

What kind of marriage do you have? Are you satisfied with it? If so, then how can you make it better? If not, then what can you do to become satisfied? Marriage takes work and neglecting that work will harm the relationship. Ideally, I believe that a marriage should be founded on commitment and include an intimate emotional connection.

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