Three Types of Marriages

Three Types of Marriages

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There are at least three types of marriages:





A Competitive Marriage.

My marriage was a competitive one: a struggle for power, getting my way and being comfortable. My wife and I are both first born and she is an only child. We are from different cultures and languages, besides having very different family cultures and being male and female. This is a  prescription for conflict!

How often did we have this little conversation: “You didn’t do that right!” “I assume that means ‘you didn’t do that the way I do it.’”

Interestingly enough, in the beginning we were unaware that we were competing.  But when someone told me about these three types of marriage, everything came into focus.

As a believer, I want to have a cooperative marriage. It all hung on me as the leader, and, since the Lord has made us aware of our competitiveness,  for the last few years we have been moving away from competition to cooperation.

One thing that was helpful was learning in Gary Chapman’s book about the five languages of love (gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, touch and service). We have no overlap in these and were confused that the other didn’t respond to our efforts to show love in our way.

Knowing that my wife’s two primary love languages are quality time and gifts (both requiring great self denial on my part!) and mine being words of affirmation and touch, helped us move towards working together instead of against each other.

A second help was when a friend taught us about “fight words” and “spite words.” My wife’s family uses fight words all the time. Direct accusations abound. “WHY did you do that?!!!” (hear a lot of force and a hard edge in the voice). “You ALWAYS leave the door open” (meaning, I’d like you to shut the door). “You ALWAYS break things and NEVER fix them” (meaning, I want to use this and it’s broken).

On my side are spite words. I’ve never said this, but have thought it enough: “Well, if that’s the way you feel, get yourself another husband!!!!”  A lot of competition there!

A third help was learning our motives in competing. For my wife it was often the desire for security. For me it was the desire for success and significance. Learning to draw both from our relationship with Christ, rather than our marriage set us free of a lot of conflict. But learning this is a process, no instant change here.

Learning to think in “we terms”, as a team, appreciating and using each other’s strengths has also helped. So has discerning what is important and what is not. I can let go of an awful lot when I look at things from eternity’s perspective.

If you’d like more helpful principles, get the book Knowing Jesus is Enough for Joy, Period! Check the top of the blog for a link.

A Capitulative Marriage

My in-laws’ marriage was a capitulative one.  That is, there was attack followed by surrender. Issues were buried to fester and reappear when the attacker was again dissatisfied. Everyone was unhappy.

My father-in-law, an intelligent, well read man, grew up without a father in a peace-filled family.  He responded to conflict by withdrawing, giving in. His wife grew up in a rough, argumentative and unhappy family of strong personalities. She responded to unhappiness by attacking.

My father-in-law wanted his peace and tried to get it by avoiding conflict, but only managed to prolonged it, for his wife would not let go of what she wanted.

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Such marriages are characterized by “surrender talk” on the part of the husband. “My wife won’t let me….” “She will object, so I can’t….”  In these statements he is making her the leader.  He is surrendering  in his thoughts as well as his actions to her bullying. He is not being responsible in his role as leader.

True “leadership talk” is the opposite. “My wife doesn’t like it when I drive aggressively, so because I love her, I choose to protect her from unnecessary stress by driving carefully.” The husband here is taking his responsibility as leader to make a decision, one which takes into consideration his wife’s likes and needs. He is making the decision, not her. Very different from capitulation.

No one is happy in a captiulative marriage, no matter who capitulates. Fear reigns on one side, frustration on the other. My wife and her father were constantly afraid of her mother’s rants, calling her the “Master Sargent.”  The relationship in the end drove my father-in-law into a deep depression that in the end led to his death. The sad truth is that he himself was responsible, for he failed to step up to the plate and lead.

A Cooperative Marriage.

To see each other as partners, each one bringing strengths and gifts, as well as weaknesses, opens the way to working together. Add to this mix the biblical leadership of the husband being accepted by both partners and you have the prescription for a great marriage.

The word “husband” is an agricultural one meaning “to care for, nurture, make fruitful.” That’s what he’s supposed to do in his marriage: care for, protect, nurture his wife and her abilities within the marriage. When a woman has a husband like that, voluntary submission is not hard, says my wife. This is not the “media image” of a Christian wife who is squashed by a domineering husband. Just the opposite.

There are, of course, conflicts and adjustments along the way, but as each knows his and her role, as things are discussed, as each learns to give and take, the outcome is a positive harmony  and cooperation.

It is a journey with changes and challenges, failures and restarts, (as we can tell you from 37 years of experience) but when the basic understanding is there and the husband leads with love and wisdom, and the wife voluntarily submits and supports with her advice and perspective, then you get the proper partnership that God intended.


So, which do you want for a marriage: competitive, captiulative or cooperative? Discern which yours is and work together to move towards cooperation.

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