Rose MacDowell

It's blissful, difficult, romantic, and both maligned and idealized in popular culture. We're talking of course about marriage, one of the most important types of relationships human beings can experience. 

Marriage is a life-long dream for some people and a trap to be avoided for others. Whether you consider marriage to be the backbone of the family and society or an overrated drudgery, there's no doubt that marriage is a huge topic in cultures around the world. 

Join us as we dive into the fascinating topic of marriage, the different type of marriage, and what makes a marriage strong and long-lasting.

Types of Marriage

Let's start by discussing the different types of marriages. Think all marriages are the same? Think again. According to family therapists and marriage experts, there are 7 types of marriage, each with its own unique characteristics. 

The 7 types of marriages are:

  • Starter marriage. A starter marriage describes a marriage that lasts about five years and ends without the couple having children. The term was coined in an article in the New York Times, and expounded on in a 2002 book called The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony. Like "starter home," a "starter marriage" implies that the relationship is a way of getting started at a young age and won't be the last.  
  • Companionship marriage. In a companionship marriage, two people base their relationship on friendship, camaraderie, and keeping each other company. Companionship marriages are more common in second marriages and between older couples who have divorced or widowed. These types of marriages are often based on common interests and shared connections, and are less focused around passion and deep emotional intimacy. 
  • Parenting marriage. A parenting marriage describes a marriage built around having children and sharing parenting duties. A lot of parenting marriages started as love matches but gradually turned into platonic, duty-based relationships focused on family. Couples in most parenting marriages don't have sex often, if at all, and want to avoid the emotional repercussions of divorce on their children. There may also be financial considerations and concerns about how divorce would impact extended family. 
  • Safety marriage. A safety marriage, or marriage pact, may sound like the plot of a romantic comedy but is an increasingly common type of relationship. These marriages are created between two people who agree to marry each other by a certain time if both partners are still single. Safety marriages often happen between friends or ex-partners, and are based on the desire to have a family and avoid loneliness. 
  • Living apart together marriage. When a married couple lives apart together, they live separate and independent lives and don't cohabitate. People might decide to live apart for financial reasons, because they have children from previous marriages, live in different locations, or because they value their time alone. Also known as LAT, living together apart marriages are more common with older couples, but are having a moment with younger couples, too. 
  • Open marriage. Open marriages aren't just for reality TV shows. As alternative relationships become more accepted, open marriages have become less of a fringe concept. Open marriages can include polygamous relationships, polyamory, swinging, certain kinks such as the cuckold/hot wife lifestyle, and less defined arrangements that involve non-monogamy and intimacy with people outside the marriage
  • Covenant marriage.  The aim of covenant marriages is to help couples focus on commitment, working through issues, and decrease the likelihood of divorce. Couples in covenant relationships get pre-marital counseling to help assess their compatibility and spotlight potential areas of conflict. Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana offer legal covenant marriage that allows limited grounds for divorce. Most couples interested in covenant marriage share religious values and believe that marriage should be for life except in certain circumstances. 

Functions of Marriage

The functions of marriage may seem obvious. When you love someone, you want society to recognize your relationship, share a household and possibly finances, and often start a family. But there are other functions of marriage you may not think of, including:

  • The joining of families. In many cultures, marriage is seen as a joining of two families as well as two individuals. Arranged marriages in particular take into consideration the background, social status, and financial resources of each family, while the feelings of the couple may be secondary or not considered at all. 
  • The care of children. Marriage can provide a stable framework for having and parenting children. Children in a secure family structure are more likely to have adequate food, shelter, and resources. 
  • Sex. A committed couple is more likely to have regular sex than those who are unmarried. Sex in marriage is also more acceptable in more conservative or religious cultures. 
  • Fulfillment. Some studies suggest that married people are happier than singles. Married people also report higher levels of satisfaction with their overall quality of life, which includes things like career choices and personal growth.
  • Social support. Marriage provides access to friends and family members who can lend emotional and practical support. It's easier to ask for help when you're already part of a community.
  • Economic security. A spouse can help provide an income, benefits like health insurance, and a safety net in case the other spouse loses a job or gets sick. 

How To Build  A Strong Marriage

Happy marriages take commitment, energy, and the willingness to focus on the relationship. Here are some tried and true ways to improve your marriage, no matter what type of relationship you have. 

  • Prioritize your needs as a couple. In a successful marriage, the relationship comes first. Work, other family, and even children should not always take priority over the needs of spouses, such as intimacy, communication, working together, and confronting challenges and disagreements. 
  • Communicate regularly. Communication is key to any successful relationship. Holding feelings in can create resentment, an emotion that is particularly destructive in marriage. Be sure to share your feelings about each other, the relationship, your family, career, and dreams, even if it isn’t always easy.
  • Stay positive. A positive attitude can go a long way in a marriage. If you and your spouse take on issues with a can-do, loving mindset, you're more likely to avoid anger and resentment and solve difficulties as a team. 
  • Make time for fun together. Spend time on activities that bring you closer together. These could include going out to dinner, watching movies, talking, exercising, or playing games. Time together should also include time alone without children, friends or family. 
  • Develop trust. Trust is essential to a healthy relationship. You need to be able to share secrets, confide in each other, and rely on one another. Agree to be honest with each other about the key parts of your marriage, including finances, feelings, and problems. 
  • Set boundaries. Boundaries are important in every relationship. They allow both you and your spouse to express what's important to you and respect each other's needs. Boundaries can include your expectations about money, sex, fidelity, raising children, and time spent with extended family. 
  • Don't be afraid to get help. If you and your spouse have been struggling to resolve recurrent problems, a couples' therapist may be able to help. Licensed therapists often work with couples who have trouble communicating, resolving conflicts, or working out sexual issues.