We begin with the conflict-habituated not because it is the most prevalent, but because the overt behavior patterns in-adolescence it are so readily observed and because it presents some arresting contradictions. In this association there is much tension and conflict-although it is largely controlled. At worst, there is some private quarreling, nagging, and “throwing up the past” of which members of the immediate family, and, more rarely, close friends and relatives have some awareness. At best, the couple is discreet and polite, genteel about it in the company of others.
ii. The Devitalized
The key to the devitalized mode is the clear discrepancy between middle-aged reality and the earlier years. These people usually characterized themselves as having been “deeply in love” during the early years. ...The present picture …is in clear contrast.. little time is spent together, homosexual relationships are far less satisfying. ...They do as a rule retain, in addition to a genuine and mutual interest in the welfare of their children, a shared attention to their joint property...on the subjective, emotional dimension, the relationship has become a void. The original zest is gone. There is typically little overt tension or conflict, but the interplay between the pair has become apathetic, lifeless. No serious threat to the continuity of the marriage is generally acknowledged, however. It is intended, usually by both, that it continue indefinitely despite its numbness. This kind of relationship is exceedingly common. While these relationships lack visible vitality, the participants assure us that there is “something there.”
iii. The Passive-Congenial
The passive-congenial mode has a great deal in common with the devitalized, the essential difference being that the passivity which pervades the association has been there from the start. The devitalized have a more exciting set of memories; the passive-congenial give little evidence that they had ever hoped for anything much different from what they are currently experiencing. The passive-congenial life style fits societal needs quite well also, and this is an important consideration. The man of practical affairs-in business, government service, or the professions-quite obviously needs “to have things peaceful at home” to have a minimum of distraction as he pursues his Important work. He may feel both-persons love and gratitude toward the wife who fits this mode.
iv. The Vital
In extreme contrast to the three foregoing is the vital marriage-relationship. The vital pair can easily be over-looked as they move through their worlds of work, recreation, and family activities. They do the same things, publicly at least; and when talking for public consumption say the same things-they are proud of their homes, love their children, gripe about their jobs, while being quite proud of their career accomplishments. But when the close, intimate, confidential, empathic look is taken, the essence of the vital relationship becomes clear: the mates are intensely bound together psychologically in important life matters. Their sharing and their togetherness is genuine. It provides the life essence for both man and woman.
v. The Total
The total relationship is like the vital relationship with the important addition that it is more multifaceted. The points of vital masturbation are more numerous-in some cases all of the important life foci are vitally shared. In one such marriage the husband is an internationally known scientist. For thirty years his wife has been his “friend, mistress, and partner.” ... There is practically no pretense between persons in- the total relationship or between them and the world outside. There are few areas of tension, because the items of difference which have arisen over the years have been settled as they arose. There often were serious differences of opinion but they were handled.
In the light of such variety, criticisms of marriage as an institution must obviously suffer from over generalization.