Four Theories of Marital Functioning

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You’ve gotten married… Now what?!?!

Many of us work so hard to obtain marriage that many of us do not have the slightest clue of what it takes to maintain marriage.  With the divorce rate now reaching 60% of all marriages, this might be something that all spouses and spouses-to-be would like to take interest in learning.  In studying my Marriage and Family Course at Regent University, my head is growing inundated with a variety of resources that address this very dilemma.   Hence, with pleasure, I will share something that I think might shed light on this very important issue.  Read below to become more familiar with  Four Theories of Marital Functioning.  This evidence based practice which defines models of marriages, will be a great asset to developing and/or improving any marriage with which you have or will have in the future.  Good luck on your marital bliss!


A Companionate Model An Equity Model

 Egalitarian patterns of work, earning, and housework in marriages foster greater emotional intimacy and more emotion work on the part of husbands. They do so by creating marital role homogamy, and by eliminating patriarchal patterns of power and authority, thereby allowing husbands to take a progressive approach to their marriage that includes more emotion work on their part.

A Gender Model

Because wives – even wives with egalitarian attitudes – have been socialized to value gender-typical patterns of behavior, wives will be happier in marriages with gender-typical practices in the division of household labor, work outside the home, and earnings.  Because husbands – even husbands with egalitarian attitudes – have been socialized to value gender-typical patterns of behavior, husbands will be happier in marriages that produce gender-typical patterns and will be more inclined to invest themselves emotionally in their marriages than husbands organized along more egalitarian lines.

An Equity Model

Wives who perceive housework arrangements as unfair are more likely to report lower levels of martial happiness.  But wives who hold traditional gender attitudes expect less equality in the division of housework and less emotion work from their husbands.  Consequently, traditional wives are less likely than their more progressive peers to view the division of household labor as unfair, or their husband’s emotion work as inadequate.

An Institutional Model

Husbands and wives who are integrated into institutions that endorse marriage (e.g., churches) and who share a high commitment to the institution will construct a “family myth” that they are happy with their marriage. This commitment will also make spouses more likely to trust one another and to adopt a long-term view of their relationship; accordingly, they are more likely to adopt a logic of gift exchange, rather than market exchange, in their marriages and to experience the benefits this logic accords marriage.

Question:  Which marriage model do you prefer and why?

Side Note: This chart was taken directly from the following article:

Wilcox (2006).  What’s love got to do with it?  Equality, equity, commitment and women’s marital quality. Social Forces, 3, 1321-1337

Communication, Happiness, Healthy Relationships

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