A physician friend of mine recently enjoyed two visits with patients and their spouses in long-term marriages. One patient was 95; his wife was 93. They recently celebrated their 75th anniversary together, for which there is no “golden” or “platinum”. He was amazed at their longevity, something rarely seen today. A second couple had been married 60 years, and he asked them the secret to their success. She smiled and quipped, “Well, I’m blind, and he’s deaf…that really helps a lot.”
All humor aside, you know I’m all about research that can help determine what makes a marriage successful. A 30-year U.S. study by E. Mavis Hetherington on marriage and divorce identified that there are five types of marriages, and rated their respective odds of divorce. The details can be found in the book For Better (Or Worse): The Science of a Good Marriage. It was reported in an article titled “What makes a healthy, happy marriage?” in The Times of India.
The two marriage types most likely to remain stable over time are:
The cohesive/individuated marriage—For these couples, marriage is a refuge for the husband and the wife—a place of renewal, support, affection and companionship at the end of each day. It has the second lowest divorce rate.
The traditional marriage—Boasting the lowest divorce rate of all five types, these couples recognize the male breadwinner and female homemaker roles. The success of a traditional marriage means both partners are happy with their roles, perform them well and feel respected by their partner.
The three styles at highest risk of divorce:
The pursuer/distancer marriage—In 80 percent of cases, the woman is the pursuer, and the man is the distance. Generally, she likes to confront or discuss issues, while he withdraws and avoids confrontation. Over time, both partners tend to get fed up.
The disengaged marriage—This couple lacks mutual affection and support. While they rarely argue, they don’t need one another on a daily basis.
The operatic marriage—This couple has dramatic highs and lows, is emotionally volatile, enjoys great make-up sex, and has the highest sexual satisfaction level. The marriage may end when one person (typically the husband) decides the passion isn’t worth the constant conflict.
I’ve never really thought of categorizing marriages into just a few boxes like this, and I’m not sure all marriage types are included. I would describe mine as falling under the cohesive type, and I do like the visual of viewing your marriage as a refuge against the stresses of the world. Do you feel your style or type of marriage is adequately described on the list? What would you add?
Photo: ©Galina Barskaya/PhotoXpress.com