The five marriages described here were identified by a group of sociologists from the University of Geneva (Switzerland). This classification is the result of monitoring 1,500 couples of people of different ages, living in legal or common-law marriage for at least a year.
The first impression obtained as a result of the study is curious: never before have the external “decorations” of love been so diverse, and couples so free in choosing relationships.
“It can be argued that the standard model of marriage has come to an end,” sums up Jean Kellerhal, one of the authors of the work. “In our time, creativity and individuality come to the fore in a pair.”
Relationships are more of a project we are working on together than a gift of fate.
However, among the huge variety of relationship styles, five main trends can be distinguished, five more or less harmonious (as well as more or less new) models of marriage unions. And, if in one of them you can recognize your own, others will remind you of the families of friends, parents or neighbors.
What is this classification for? First of all, it will allow you to figure out what tasks your union has. What is it based on? How are the roles within the family distributed, whether each has a personal territory, how do you resolve conflicts. Perhaps this will be a revelation, but it happens that the relationship of spouses goes beyond love relationships. “In the public mind, there has always been an ideal image of” real, fateful love “, which one day should descend upon us and resolve all our problems,” the expert says.
Find your model
Life together does not rest on just one feeling of endless love. “Relationships need work,” says Jean Kellerhal. “This structure consists of many floors and looks more like a well-thought-out project than a gift of fate. Agree, even the most romantic natures have to reckon with such unromantic components of relationships as the distribution of power in the family, personal space or common funds. “
Perhaps it is the awareness of the multifaceted nature of the relationship that will allow you to reconsider and work out some details of life together in case of difficulties, and not give up everything and leave.
How is the model chosen on the basis of which relationships in the marriage union are built? “It largely depends on the age of the partners, on their occupation and their social environment,” explains the sociologist. – If you are young, you both have higher education, you live in a city and strive for personal development and professional success, then most likely your style is a family-association. Whereas your parents’ lives were likely to follow the more traditional fortress family pattern.
However, it is quite possible that in your case there was a cocktail with elements of other relationships or two models of marriage unions at the same time. Be that as it may, a certain style of relationship emerges pretty quickly. It often changes due to the appearance of the first child: in this case, spouses can move from an association family to a family of associates. However, after the birth of the first child, the style will no longer change. At least, if you do not specifically set such a goal. “
Union-fortress: “Both in joy and in sorrow”
Priorities. These partners are tightly connected with each other, together they experience hardships and joys, dreaming of “living happily and die in one day.” Sharing each other’s tastes, they always try to come to a common opinion.
Their individuality originates in the word “we”: together they work to ensure that the husband succeeds professionally (the wife often does not work), and also educate children. Consensus and unity of opinion are dear to partners. A good couple, they say, is that within which there are almost no disagreements.
Distribution of roles. One of the goals of partners is to reduce the number of grievances. Their daily life consists of many rituals: everything has its place and time, and the roles of each of the family members are clearly defined. Here, more often than in other unions, responsibilities are distributed depending on the sex of the spouse: it is assumed that the wife is in charge of the house, and the husband earns money. However, the partners make decisions together.
Relations with the world. The wife rarely goes out. She tends to view influences from the outside world – new ideas and trends – more as a threat. The husband takes a greater interest in innovation, other ways of being and ways of thinking. He is a kind of “authorized representative” of the couple, who is responsible for the “external relations” and social integration of the family. The wife is more focused on “internal issues”: security, care, tenderness. This complementarity increases the dependence of family members on each other.
Advantages and disadvantages. The main trump card of the fortress family is stability. When partners take on certain responsibilities, life becomes more harmonious. The spouses try to avoid collisions, yielding some of their positions. When solving problems, they prefer traditional, proven methods. Peaceful life in the “fortress” borders on routine. Such relationships are capable of “stiffening” if from time to time partners do not start new projects.
Union-Association: “We Observe Autonomy”
Priorities. Paradoxically, the partners are brought together by the originally stipulated desire for autonomy. In family associations, it is believed that living together will benefit if each of the participants remains the master of their own destiny, will defend personal beliefs and conduct their own affairs. Sacrificing interests for the good of the family is perceived as a defeat – both for the “altar” spouse and for the relationship in general.
Distribution of roles. Partners strive to be self-sufficient and realize themselves in all areas at the same time: professional, marital, parental, cultural, civil. The distribution of responsibilities according to the sex principle is rejected a priori, here the principle “all are equal” reigns. When communicating, partners do not hide emotions and interests. If both spouses are determined to make common decisions, most likely they will be able to agree: after all, what suits them today may be revised tomorrow.
Relations with the world. Contacts with the outside world are valued as highly as the individual characteristics of the spouses. Going out (together or separately), traveling, inviting parents or friends to visit – all this feeds and enriches the dialogue of partners, allows you to implement joint projects.
The association family does not tolerate routine, considering it a source of boredom and anxiety. Such alliances are more often formed in a developed society, where there are economic and cultural prerequisites for satisfying the desires of both. Association families usually live in cities, where partners can find a business that will allow them to develop personally and earn enough money.
Advantages and disadvantages. If the spouses know how to manage the situation, they will be able to get everything from life: both the joy of living together, and the ability to realize themselves as a person. The flexibility in the relationship allows them to deal cards over and over again, adapting to the desires and capabilities of each.
Problems usually arise when the personal interests of the spouses diverge, and family life becomes an obstacle to personal development. To reach a compromise, members of family associations often have to negotiate. If maintaining a union begins to require too many sacrifices, the spouses usually decide to separate.
Soyuz-cocoon: “One against all”
Priorities. A very tender marital relationship reigns in a cocoon family. The main goal is to take care of and look after each other, to entertain and resist the vicissitudes of fate that arise, for example, due to instability in society or far from home.
Partners create an intimate nest and do their best to protect it from the influences of the external environment. As in a fortress family, partners develop a relationship of merging with each other. Collaboration and similar tastes give them the sense of security they need.
Distribution of roles. In a cocoon family, partners have equal responsibilities. They take turns preparing food, cleaning, messing with children. Depending on the situation, any of the spouses can go to work. Men especially strive to find refuge from the daily frustrations of the outside world with their families, appreciate the comfort of the hearth and all the rituals associated with it.
Relations with the world. Usually a cocoon family closes in on itself, because it does not feel like a part of the society in which it exists. Spouses feel lonely in a big city, sometimes losing themselves before the power of “others.” However, they are not too interested in the outside world. They perceive social integration or professional achievements as secondary values.
Advantages and disadvantages. The cocoon family is quite helpless in the face of material difficulties. Spouses tend to comfort each other rather than act and often fail to offer adequate help. They tend to keep quiet about conflicts, since any disagreement is perceived as an additional threat to their security. The strength of the cocoon family lies in the solidarity of the spouses. If the surrounding reality is not too harsh for them, partners are able to live quite happily.
Union of Parallel Worlds: “Together for Lack of Better”
Priorities. This style of relationship is the least similar to the generally accepted image of a happy couple. Here, as in the family-association, each spouse has his own interests, and the relationship between partners is based on indifference to each other. Each of them takes care of himself and is not inclined to share emotional experiences with his spouse. In essence, they live together only because there is no other way.
Distribution of roles. In such a family, the responsibilities of partners are extremely differentiated. The wife is entirely engaged in the house, and in addition to fulfilling the duties associated with this, the husband expects from her organizational support for his own endeavors. His work is often hard, he cannot take on any of the functions of his partner – and vice versa. There is not a shadow of sentimentality in their relationship.
Relations with the world. Usually spouses live in real isolation from the outside world, in complete ignorance of what is happening around, and are not too inclined to invite their parents or neighbors to visit. Of course, the reason is not at all to be alone more often … However, if the partners do not find fault with each other, they coexist rather calmly.
Advantages and disadvantages. It is difficult to find advantages in such an alliance. Spouses do not expect anything from each other, which is why disappointments in a partner are alien to them. Everyone has a clear idea of what he should do, the rules are established here once and for all, which helps to eliminate any disagreements. In such families, complete order reigns, and all actions of partners are absolutely predictable. And, although their relationship is not at all like a holiday of the soul, such a union can last a lifetime.
Union of Companions: “Common First of All”
Priorities. Like the fortress family, this couple model is designed to last. The spouses want to share the same destiny, so the life of each of them is consistent with the values on which their family is based. A very close relationship is established between partners, they emphasize their similarities and do not keep secrets from each other. But, unlike a fortress family or a cocoon family, it is very important for spouses to participate together and in public life.
Distribution of roles. As in the association family, in accepting responsibilities, setting rules, and devising rituals, spouses prefer to remain flexible. The daily routine and tasks of each partner change depending on the current tasks. Both are capable of running a household, in addition, one can replace the other – this is the key to the development of a couple.
However, unlike a family-association, where everyone’s personal projects are valued, here common interests come to the fore. For the good of the family and society, each of the spouses is ready to make some sacrifices: move to another city, leave work for a while for the sake of another’s career or raising children.
Relations with the world. Partners take an active part in the life of the city, school or charities. However, despite their openness to the world, they cannot be called “social lions” – as is often the case with the family-association. Rather, they are an example of a civic couple seeking to contribute to public welfare.
Advantages and disadvantages. The superiority of joint interests over personal ones, flexibility in the distribution of roles, openness to the outside world are excellent prerequisites for a long and happy existence. It is in such unions, according to their members, that there are less disappointments, here they laugh more often, rejoice more in joint achievements and part less often. Information for thought.
Which of the five marriages is closest to the ideal, the “formula for happiness”? “Each style has its own pros and cons,” notes Jean Kellerhal. “And although none of them guarantees the desired result for all – complete well-being in the family, some models of relationships, in the opinion of the respondents, bring more satisfaction than others.”
The family of companions ranks first in the classification. It is in this union that we feel all the power of love, respect and support of a partner, we get more joy from living together and common deeds. But in a family of parallel worlds, the situation sometimes takes on an ominous connotation. We easily lose our temper, blame, or (which is no better) ignore each other. In a fortress family and a cocoon family, the sky is also not always cloudless, but in general we feel quite satisfied.
As for the family-association, the most common model in recent years, the situation here is often very contradictory. “On the one hand, only in this marriage is the partner’s autonomy and personal life most fully recognized, which provides tremendous opportunities for personal development,” the sociologist explains. – On the other hand, everyone puts forward their own interests, which leads to constant disagreements and sometimes to divorce. Which is quite obvious, because the main principle of the family-association is to leave or compete. “
Today it is becoming clear that the success of a matrimonial “enterprise” depends not so much on its form as on its content. Whatever your style, all challenges must be willing – and able – to overcome together.
Difficult, but possible
The increase in divorce rates, loose family relationships, disintegrating and re-created alliances – all this suggests that any love story is ephemeral.
“The general trend can be alarming,” says Jean Kellerhal. – We no longer know to what extent it is possible to invest in family relationships, so as not to be left with nothing as a result. Before moving on to a deeper level of trust, we carefully weigh all the pros and cons, discuss the rights, obligations, and the contribution of each partner to the common cause. It happens that excessive prudence extinguishes a relationship in the bud. “
Yes, today life together has become a difficult adventure, but this does not mean that success in it is unattainable. If, of course, we care to come to him together.
Jean Kellerhal is a Swiss sociologist, one of the co-authors of the work “Measure and its absence in a pair” (“Mesure et demesure du couple”, Payot, 2004).
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