Most couples don’t know why they continue to struggle over time or even what the source of their problems are…
Yet, one of the most common and detrimental misfires a couple has right from the start is not having the proper framework.
There are perhaps thousands of different “types” of marriages out there, and most rely on frameworks that are bankrupt.
But there’s only one framework (seriously, only one) that will give you long-term, mutually empowered marriage success.
And before we dive into that bulletproof framework, you need to understand three of the most common types of marriages people are in.
Knowing which camp you are in will help determine if you will succeed, frustrate, or fail.
This is key advice for newlyweds or folks about to get married. This information is also designed to educate married couples, helping you determine if you are going to go deeper, stay just “roommates” over time, or part ways in a painful divorce, and you may as well if you don’t choose wisely.
Another way to look at the 3 types of marriages, is to think about it in terms of the “orientation” you take inside your marriage.
As you evaluate your own marriage by reading this, tease out the “couple” from the individuals within the couple. In other words, look at this from the “I” perspective versus the “we” perspective. That way, you are not assuming you are on the same page, but instead, intelligently allowing each other to have different perspectives, views, or opinions about how you see your marriage.
Dr. John Demartini and Bryan Franklin without knowing it each contributed to these distinctions. I’ve added and modified elements from my own experience working for over a decade with couples to create distinctions that make sense in my world.
So, let’s get started.
Watch this short video if you prefer this style of learning:
There are 3 types of marriages people are in. This is the “WHY” you are together.
- Careful—Comfort and Security seeking
- Careless–Pleasure and Fun seeking
- Caring—Growth and Development seeking
Let’s dive into these one at a time.
Each of these 3 types has a “high side” and a “low side.” Or, you could say, a helpful and hurtful side. In other words, it’s good to be careful sometimes and careless sometimes.
CAREFUL–Comfort & Security.
The carefully married types seek comfort and security above all else.
You are primarily oriented to your partner, meaning you’re often more aware of their emotional state than your own.
It’s challenging for you to put your needs first and in time your partner might get annoyed with your struggle to take care of yourself.
You often walk on eggshells around your spouse. You typically seek connection in your marriage from a place of fear and insecurity and you are the one who most often pursues connection.
You don’t like “”negative” emotions in yourself and you will hold them in so as to not upset your partner. You tend to implode rather than explode.
People in this camp view marriage as a secure place to finally set up shop. You deeply desire a safe place to land with your spouse. You set your life up in a series of routines and schedules to help you predict the way the marriage goes.
If you are this type you think to yourself “I finally found the one and now I can settle down and relax.”
You are very conflict avoidant and will do just about anything to avoid a fight, including abandon yourself over time, and then later resent your partner for not living up to your expectations.
You often believe that external factors such as your partner, money and children are the source of your marriage stress and that, once handled, will resolve tension and struggle between you and your spouse, and finally have you feeling safe.
Covertly: Under the hood however, lives your selfishness and the part of you that has no idea to put your needs above others because you judge people like that. You seek comfort because you are generally uncomfortable. You seek security because you are generally insecure. You have built your life around self-preservation and self-protection. You need your “careless” partner because they help you care about YOU more and be more selfish, thus helping you come back into balance.
This is often (not always of course) the more “feminine” partner, typically a woman.
CARELESS—Pleasure & Fun
The carelessly married types seek pleasure and fun above all else.
You are also primarily oriented to yourself, meaning most of your actions are coming from a desire to get your own needs met.
Your partner might think you are selfish and you may struggle to attend to your partner’s needs.
Careless types believe what works for me should work for you.
You prefer fun and “light” over intense, serious, and deep. Generally, you prefer to travel, party, have fun and keep things on the surface.
You see you partner as a companion to have fun with, party with, travel with. You like to keep things exciting. You are a very sexual type and love the pleasure that sex and touch can bring, and if your sex life gets challenging, you think having regular sex will solve the problem.
You long for things to be easy and when things get hard, you try to get the feelings of the honeymoon phase back and might judge your partner as overly needy, dramatic, or emotional.
When you fight, you might think “why is this such a big deal, can’t you just…..” as you quickly want to return to your happy place.
You tend to explode rather than implode.
You get defensive and snap easily, which demonstrates your insecurity and wounds around being seen as inadequate or incompetent.
When your kids cry or get upset, you are the first to try to make it go away. You joke a lot and tend to change the subject when things get overly serious or intense.
Without knowing it, you are highly sensitive and very tuned in to your partner’s emotional state and will dodge and weave to keep the connection pleasant.
When others ask you how you are doing, your typical response is “great!” Everything is “fine.” You are a generally upbeat and positive person.
Covertly: Under the hood however, lives your depression, your shame, anger, and your despair and your neediness. You have disowned your “careful” part and your spouse is trying to help you bring that out in the open. Part of why you want things to always be light and fun, is that when you get really honest, internally you feel heavy and burdened much of the time. You could benefit from learning how to “tune in” to your partner and his or her needs.
This is often (not always of course) the more “masculine” partner, often the man.
CARING—- Growth & Development
The caring types are a hybrid of the careless and careful types. In other words, you have an equal amount of careful and careless–you are balanced internally.
These types love to grow and their entire life is about personal and professional development.
This is the most mature person in the marriage because you see that you are sometimes careful and sometimes careless. You are sometimes narcissistic and sometimes altruistic. You play both and don’t live on the extreme edge of one or the other.
Here, you never settle down and are always evolving, adapting and changing. You find “growth” invigorating and enlivening.
You tend to outgrow old or stale relationships, and can get challenged at these natural transitions.
Under stress, you slip into being overly careful or careless.
You love to learn and are always on a quest to learn more about yourself and other people.
You are generally more “balanced” with your masculine and feminine qualities internally. Even though you can play both roles of careful or careless, your top priority is to “care.”
You have all the same “issues” as the careful and careless types, but the key difference is you are willing and able to work on it and learn as you go.
Your actions match your words and intentions.
You have a bigger capacity to love because you “work on yourself” and you get that what upsets you about your partner is really just a mirror of your disowned relational baggage. You don’t take things overly personally, lash out, nor do you get stuck in blame. You have the tools and resources internally and externally to get through challenges and you see any and all challenges as opportunities to grow.
If both parties move into a caring place 80% of the time, you become a smart couple…
“Life is growth
If we stop growing,
technically and spiritually,
we are as good as dead.”
—Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace
What The Smart Couple Does
The smart person within the couple obviously chooses the caring approach, because they are invested both fun and pleasure and comfort and security. In other words, they embrace both careful and careless to create a “balanced” marriage.
The smart couple makes this a core tenant or agreement in their marriage, for life.
The smart person sees all of this and makes a commitment to grow in an ongoing way because you understand the ONLY way to true, lasting fulfillment is to embrace growth and development.
Notice how careful types are unconsciously helping the careless partner come into more balance by embracing the part they have disowned that is showing up in their partner. Both teach each other to come more into balance and be less extreme.
Notice how the only constant you can count on over many years is the 3rd type. Comfort comes and goes, as does pleasure. They are not sustainable alone simply because they are not in balance.
As you can imagine if you are a “caring” type and you are with a careless or careful type, your marriage won’t make it unless both parties get on board with growth and development.
And, so long as you don’t embrace growth and development, your marriage will continue to remain polarized and you will fight about the same issues year in and year out.
And, here’s the cool thing…
If you build your marriage with growth/development as the foundation, you are guaranteed the security and pleasure you desire.
By choosing to grow, you choose pleasure and fun AND comfort and security because you work at it. You work on yourself so as to become a vessel for love to move through you.
Sucking it up to make it work
Of course there is one more way to make your marriage “work” if you are a careless or careful type and don’t want to grow.
Agree to “not go there” and keep the challenging material at bay by compartmentalizing most or all of it. In other words, suck it up, stuff it, and avoid it. Believe it or not, some people can make this work, but it requires a deep level of self-betrayal.
Share this with your spouse and see if you can both “diagnose” where your marriage is at.
Then decide if you both are up for making “growth and development” the cornerstone of your marriage.
If you are not on the same page, this will remain a consistent source of pain and frustration in your marriage until it changes.
If you choose the path of the smart couple, you’ll certainly be setting yourselves up for success for many years to come.