Which of the Four Marriage Styles Do You Have?

Did you know that you can change your marriage style for a more satisfying relationship?

On today’s podcast, Coach Jack talks about the four styles of marriages and how they relate to conflict and intimacy. He also provides help for changing your relationship style in order to have a more satisfying relationship with your spouse.

After listening to the podcast, you may want to:

  1. Discover 12 ways that neediness might be hurting your marriage.
  2. Learn how to talk about marriage problems with your spouse in a constructive way.
  3. Get coaching to improve a relationship with a spouse who has a different marriage style.

Which of the Four Marriage Styles Do You Have?



[Introduction to the podcast]

Announcer: On the Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack podcast, Christian psychologist, author, and relationship coach, Dr. Jack Ito, will help you to build and restore your marriage. By learning just a few relationship skills, you can help your spouse enjoy your relationship more, while getting more love and affection from your spouse. Listen to Coach Jack as he helps you with one more step toward a marriage both you and your spouse will love.


Do you know which of the 4 styles of marriage you have? If you are like most people, you are not even aware that there are four styles of marriage. Indeed there are, and if you know what they are, you will be in a better position to decide if you like the marriage style you are currently using, or if you would like to work on switching to one which might be more satisfying to you and your spouse. If you are dissatisfied with the amount of intimacy in your relationship, then you will want to pay close attention to today’s podcast and to learn more about relationship styles which promote intimacy. If, on the other hand, you are more interested in a relationship style which promotes cooperation and working toward successful management of your home, you may also benefit from learning to have a different marriage style. The thing to keep in mind is that no one is stuck with a marriage style any more than anyone is stuck with a particular style of relating to others. By learning and making changes, you can have more success with your spouse. Whether working by yourself  or working with your spouse, you can re-invent the way you and your spouse relate to each other.


Most people are not aware that there are different styles of marriage. They have multiple relationships in their lifetime that are very similar. Since people are very consistent in the kind of person that they are attracted to, when their relationships end, they get involved with another person who is very similar to the one they had the previous relationship with. As a result, they tend to experience the same relationship style over and over and do not learn about the other types. Often the type of relationship that we have matches the type that our parents had.


For example, someone who grew up in a high conflict family is likely to have a high conflict relationship of his or her own. That would seem perfectly natural and be consistent with their view of how marriages should be. They are also likely to choose relationship partners who have matching styles. A person who thinks that relationship should be high conflict is not likely to have a relationship with a person who avoids conflict, as that relationship would not last long. As a result, all of their relationships tend to be high conflict, but long-lasting. Relationships where people are mostly matched are going to last much longer than relationships where people are very different. In this way, a high conflict couple can have a lifelong relationship, provided that other factors in their relationship are good. A good thing to always keep in mind is that we connect by our similarities, stay together by staying similar, and disconnect when differences become large between us and our partner.


People desire to be with and around others who validate them–who make them feel good about the way they think, what they believe, and what they do. Simply put, birds-of-a-feather-flock-together. Geese are not going to hang out with ducks, and if you want to have a relationship with a duck, then you had better be a duck or at least behave like one. In a similar way, people who are conflict avoidant are going to match others who also are conflict avoidant. People who are very sexual are going to match others were very sexual. People who are very practical are going to match others were very practical. Provided that people take their time before getting married to make sure that they are really a good match, then their relationships will last much longer. People who connect on their differences and marry soon after are going to have a lot more problems in their relationship and are far more likely to divorce.


Sometimes people have matching styles while they are dating, but not after they get married. In that case, their relationship goes well up until they time they get married. Then, all of a sudden, they don’t match any more. For example a man may not be authoritarian at all while single and dating, but become authoritarian and domineering after he gets married. This may match his beliefs that the husband is the king of the castle and that wives are to be submissive. If that does not match his wife’s beliefs, they are headed for problems. He will discover that his wife does not like to be dominated, and she will discover that her husband is not as nice as she thought he was. She will spend a great deal of energy trying to get him to be nice, while he will spend a great deal of energy trying to get her to be submissive. This is only resolved by one of them changing to match the other person’s beliefs or by both of them changing to match each other’s beliefs. The greater the differences, the more difficult and the more unlikely the beliefs are to change sufficiently for the relationship to become very good.


There are four general types of expectations about how marriages should be. For any given person, these may be very different from their expectations about how being single should be. As much as possible, single people should learn the expectations for marriage that the people they date are likely to have, because their spouse is going to be among the people they date. Single people should never date someone they would never consider marrying, because their future spouse is going to be one of of the people they date. Well, how can we know what the expectations are going to be of someone we might date before we have even dated them? It isn’t possible to know for any individual person, however we can make good predictions based on their culture.


For example, women who date Korean men are much more likely to end up with an authoritarian man, since that is the norm for the Korean culture. Men who date Asian women are far more likely to end up with a wife who is more interested in maintaining the family then she is in maintaining an intimate relationship with her husband. These things often cannot be predicted from the dating behavior of Korean men or Asian women, since Korean men are going to treat single women much better than they would a wife. Also, Asian women are going to be much more sexual and intimate with their boyfriends than they will be with their husband.


Of course these are generalizations and don’t hold true for everyone. However, when dating people from these cultures and having different values, it is very important to take a good deal of time before deciding to get married. Other factors are also going to come into play in making the decision about what a spouse is likely to be like after getting married. Besides the culture in general, looking at the type of marriage or the marriage style that their parents have is going to tell you what kind of marriage style that person has internalized. When dating people from the same culture, with the same kind of parents that you had, your chances of being a good match, after marriage, for that person are increased a lot.


The four marriage styles I want to share with you today are  the business partner, the parent-child, the roommate, and the romantic. Each of these styles differs in terms of the goal of the relationship. Each of them has their pros and cons. I am not trying to make the case that any of the four styles are better than the others. It takes all kinds of people to make a village, and people who would desire everyone to be the same have no idea how destructive that would actually be. We need artists as much as we need bankers, we need romantics as much as we need practical people. Everyone has their role to play in order for our society, and our families to function well.


Each of the styles that I’m going to talk to you about our detailed in my book, A Christians Guide to Preventing and Ending Men’s Affairs. The reason that they appear there is because certain styles promote affairs more than others. I will just cover each of the styles briefly in today’s podcast.


In the business partner style of marriage, the emphasis is on husband and wife working together to achieve shared goals–just like people who own a business would. They may focus on goals like running a business, raising a family, or making money. These are the most common goals for a business partner style of relationship. Other goals are possible. For example, working as missionaries or in other ministries.


In the parent-child style of relationship, one partner is mainly the provider and the other the caretaker, or one partner may be both provider and caretaker for the other spouse. They each have their own role and goals, but their roles and goals benefit their partner in very practical ways. Their love is very much tied to what they do for each other. The relationship is mutually beneficial and it is not independent as it would be with a roommate style relationship. Each person can get their needs met by the other. Even so, this is a low intimacy style relationship, as it does not require closeness or similarity. Because of that, it is a style that is going to work better for people who are not very similar to begin with. This has happened with many Western men who have married foreign brides from the East. Their wives have focused on childcare and taking care of the home, while the husband has focused on earning the income. Indeed, many Western men expect as much as do many Eastern women in this role. People who don’t fit their cultural stereotypes are not going to work very well in this situation, however.


In the roommate style of marriage, marriage is mainly a collaboration that makes life easier and less expensive for both of them. They can share rent, split chores, take turns with childcare, work different shifts, have separate bank accounts, separate friends, and maximum freedom and independence. Just like actual roommates, they can also do things together like going on vacations, eating meals, and even having sex. A sexual relationship for a roommate style marriage is more like that of sex friends than husband and wife. These sexual relationship may be more reflective of individual sexual release than it is reflective of the marriage relationship. It is interesting for me that people in such relationships continue to have regular sex with each other even when the relationship becomes very bad, the same as they continue to do their chores and contribute to paying the bills. Since the sex never was reflective of the relationship, it is not much impacted by the worsening of the relationship.


In the romantic style of marriage, marriage is a continuation of the romantic style of relationship that they had before marriage. For such people, marriage is just for sealing the deal on being committed to each other while continuing to enjoy the same type of relationship. Keeping the relationship close and intimate is the main goal of such a marriage style. Couples with this style enjoy doing many activities and making plans together not so much to accomplish those things, as to find ways of enjoying their relationship and life together. This type of marriage requires daily maintenance of spending time together in addition to weekly dating and a good sexual relationship for both. As long as both people remain satisfied with the amount of emotional connection in the relationship, the relationship will remain stable.


As you can imagine, with each of these types of marriages, problems will happen if each spouse has a different set of beliefs for how the marriage should be. A wife with expectations for a lot of togetherness and intimacy will have problems with a husband who is primarily focused on being a provider or running a business to the extent of not spending time with his wife. A husband who expects his wife to work with him as a business partner will have problems with an easy going wife who just wants to enjoy her life instead of working ten to twelve hours a day. Many people give into the pressure to be the way that their spouse wants them to be in these situations, which will stabilize the relationship. Unfortunately, it also leads to increasing resentment and emotional distancing. A mismatched style, even if only in the mind of one of the partners will eventually result in eroding the relationship. Early signs of this are a breakdown in communication, less frequent sex, dating, or togetherness. This is true for all relationship types, since even business partners will have some communication and togetherness. Problems will be most quickly realized by people with the belief system matching a romantic style of marriage. The husband or wife of the dissatisfied partner may not feel like anything is wrong with the relationship, because it may be moving along exactly the way they believe that relationship should be. They are likely to misunderstand their spouses complaints about the relationship being disconnected or not feeling in love anymore. In addition, they are likely to be at a loss as to how to help their spouse be satisfied. What’s more, they often become very angry at their dissatisfied spouse because they have been working very hard and very well in the style of marriage that fits their belief system.


So, what do you do if your spouse has a different mental set for marriage than you do? Well, you can nag your spouse to do and be the way you want, which will end up with your spouse avoiding you more and more. This eventually results in affairs or divorce, both of which provide the possibility of finding another person with a matching style of relationship. What often happens in a divorce situation, however, is the same situation is created as before. People date others who are similar to them before marriage, and then remarry and trigger different marriage styles in the relationship, re-creating the same situation that happened in the previous marriage. People are very consistent in what they are attracted to and what they do. Choosing someone to date who is different from your ex-husband or ex-wife, does not bring any guarantee that person won’t be the same as your ex-husband or wife after marriage. Indeed, without thoroughly investigating how they are likely to be after they marry, there is no way to know. The closeness of the premarital relationship is not a good indicator of how close a relationship will be after getting married. We have to marry with our heads as well as our hearts. If our head knows it’s not right, it’s not going to be right, regardless of how much our heart thinks so. Even though divorce can result in getting a better partner, I don’t think it is a first solution for a mismatched marriage. I do recognize, however, that in extreme situations it may be the only way for each person to have a satisfactory relationship.


A coaching approach to this mismatched situation is to learn how to get more of what you want from the relationship within the style of marriage that your spouse wants. This will mean that you will have to be more of a business partner, or a free spirited roommate, or a caretaker, or a romantic partner, in order to help your spouse to desire to work more with you, lighten up, or be more romantic with you. Let me say that another way–you have to be more of what your spouse wants in order to get more of what you want. It is not a verbal deal you make–it is a feeling you create in your spouse by using behavior that attracts your spouse to you and which makes your spouse want to be with you more in ways that you like.


Let’s take an example of that. Suppose that you are a person who believes that marriages should have the romantic style of relating, but your spouse believes that the best style of marriage is a business partnership. In this case, I would encourage you to work with your spouse, but to use many emotional connection and attraction behaviors within that context. This is in fact the way that many affairs happen within the workplace. They don’t happen simply by people focusing on their work together, but by at least one person applying skills that attract and connect with the other person on an emotional level. Another example would be if you like the business style of marriage and your spouse wants a more free spirited and romantic style of marriage. You can also use good connection skills and attraction to involve your spouse in the business. You will need to understand that your spouse’s motivation will not be so much the building of the business or the earning of money, as the connection that it brings to your relationship. So you will need to make sure that you are providing those kinds of incentives  for your spouse. You can incorporate romantic elements into your working together as well as increasing behavior such as dating and one on one time talking about something other than business. For both of these examples you can see that a combination of giving your spouse what he or she wants in addition to using good attraction and connection skills can help you to get more of the style of marriage that you want. It will not become a total shift. You won’t be able to have as good a match as you would have with a partner with a matching belief system for marriage, but there is a very good chance it will improve it enough for you and your spouse that you can be happy staying together.


If, in addition to making these changes, you can make other changes to supplement your marriage, then you can be happier, even if your spouse does not change as much as you would like. For example, you can compensate for wanting to spend more time with your spouse by having close friends that you can spend more time with. With the exception of sexual intimacy, which is included in each of the styles of marriage, other things that we would like to get from our spouse we can partially get on our own. That is actually a healthy way of having relationships anyhow. It is never good to have all of our social interaction come from our spouse, as that tends to create other problems such as neediness and relationship burnout. If you can keep a balance between your social relationships, the practical things you need to do with your spouse, and regular enjoyable interaction with your spouse, you can have a stable and fulfilling marriage. When things get out of whack, people have a tendency to try to fix things by going in the opposite direction. A romantic spouse may become to helplful and practical, a helpful and practical spouse may become too romantic, an independent spouse may spend too much time underfoot, and a needy spouse may become too independent. We can never restore a relationship by doing the opposite of what we did before. Restoration means bringing things into balance. Usually that means the romantic partner becoming somewhat more practical, the practical partner becoming somewhat more romantic, and so on. Damage comes from extremes and not from moderation, in anything. It reminds me of the old Christian saying, “too heavenly minded to be any earthly good.” No one needs just a romantic partner, business partner, parent, or roommate. We need to play some of each of these roles in our marriage, while leaning in the same direction as our spouse.


Have you been trying to convince your spouse to be more practical or romantic? I only use no-convincing approaches in my coaching because even though you might get your spouse to do something temporarily by convincing, you will only keep your spouse being the way you want by creating the desire in your spouse to do that. You are not really going to be able to nag your spouse into become a tidy person. You are also not going to be able to use argument to turn your spouse into a more sexual person. It is much more effective to work on becoming the kind of person that your spouse is attracted to, values, and respects. People who have severe mismatches between what they want and what their spouse wants often need to get extra help in attracting, connecting, and building their value for their spouse. People who work with me on this sign up for my coaching package for Restoring a Loving Relationship with a Difficult Spouse, which is available on my website.


As you become aware that there are more choices in how you can have your marriage, you can start to learn how to gradually shift your relationship in the direction you would like it to go. Gradual change will not bring the kind of resistance and distancing that sudden and drastic change will create. Many people who work on changing make the mistake of wanting to fix things so quickly that all they do is create more distance. The ideal rate of change when working without your spouse to improve your relationship is slow enough that your spouse does not consciously notice your changes, but is more attracted to you. When working on attraction, whether physical or otherwise, it is not important that your spouse give you credit for your new hair style, or your success at work or with others. What is important is that your spouse is becoming more attracted to you.


If you are dissatisfied with your marriage style, work to re-create it without directly trying to change your spouse. I have helped many people change from behaving like their spouse’s parent, roommate, or business partner to behaving more like a boyfriend or girlfriend. If you sometimes feel like you need a different marriage partner, it may be that you just need a different marriage style with the same partner and you also can start to make these gradual changes. The right skills, consistently applied is key for success for any goal you have. Trading in your spouse for someone else, only to have the same dissatisfying marriage style is not the answer to your problems. Making your current relationship into one that both you and your spouse will enjoy more is a far more rewarding solution.


[Podcast wrap-up]

Announcer: Thank you for listening to Reconciling Marriages with Coach Jack. Visit coachjackito.com to learn more skills for reconnecting with your spouse and restoring your marriage.