Decoding the Complexity of Partnership: A Look Into Different Types of Marriages

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Types of marriages
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Wednesday December 27, 2023

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Getting married is a significant step for any relationship. It’s a long-term commitment to each other, but the definition of that partnership changes in each relationship. Check out the different types of marriages people enjoy to explore what your relationship could look like. It all depends on what you and your partner need based on personal preferences and beliefs.

Why Are There Different Types of Marriages?

There are numerous reasons for different types of marriages. Over two million people get married in the U.S. annually and more happen worldwide. They include people from all different cultural and religious backgrounds. Some people might hold to the traditions of their family or community.

Sexual preferences and gender identities also change how people define their union. Local laws may influence who can get married, when or how. Everyone and every place is different, so one type of union isn’t going to work for the trillions of people around the world.

Examples of Different Types of Marriages

Your future or current union doesn’t have to look like one particular relationship structure. Check out the various types of marital arrangements people have. They can all lead to fulfilling, healthy relationships if they make both partners happy.

1. Civil Marriage

When you picture two people getting married, you likely imagine them filling out some type of government paperwork to make their union legally official. This is called a civil marriage. The government recognizes two people who have joined a union and may extend special tax or legal privileges based on where the couple lives.

2. Religious Marriage

A religious marriage occurs when two people share the same religious beliefs and incorporate them into their wedding ceremony. They may or may not host the ceremony in a religious building but often have their spiritual leader as their officiant. It personalizes the vows and weaves their religion into the foundation of their coupling, which is meaningfully symbolic for those with dedicated spiritual beliefs.

3. Common-Law Marriage

The U.S. has a few states that recognize common-law marriages. Couples qualify for this when they have been living together or in a relationship for a number of years specified by their state government. They must also both be of legal age to qualify for legal union and be able to both consent.

This arrangement is something people may desire while attending counseling to learn more about each other or saving for their ceremony. It’s also another way for people to get married without either of those experiences. 

4. Monogamous Marriage

If you picture your union lasting your entire life and never including anyone other than your partner, you favor monogamous wedlock. It’s an arrangement where both partners commit themselves emotionally and physically to each other for life. Many people view this as the standard for long-term partnerships, but other types of marriages make people equally happy.

5. Polyamorous Marriage

Someone may be polyamorous when they desire multiple romantic relationships simultaneously. In this arrangement, everyone is aware they’re in a non-monogamous relationship with a minimum of two or more people. It may or may not include non-monogamous sexual activity as well, depending on the partners involved.

The married couple might consider themselves primary partners because they know they want to be together long-term. Additionally, they’re both free to form relationships with other partners. Some people prefer the terms primary and secondary to demonstrate which relationships are more committed and which are more laid-back. However, some people don’t use these terms because they believe in polyamory without relationship hierarchy.

6. Ethically Non-Monogamous Marriage

You may be an ethically non-monogamous (ENM) person if you daydream about having freedom in your union to flirt and enjoy sexual relations with people outside of your primary partner. Unlike polyamorous people, you don’t want to form relationships.

An ENM relationship is an open marriage arrangement where both partners know they’re free to have interests outside of their relationship, but they keep their romantic connections only with each other. It’s best for people who don’t believe in having one partner for their entire lives or haven’t been able to be monogamous for various reasons in past relationships.

The key is always ensuring that both partners are comfortable and aware of what the other is doing. If sexual activities become a secret, they may qualify as infidelity and cause the relationship to deteriorate. The partners involved in the union also need to know about the arrangement or if personal boundaries are changing to accommodate the marriage during rocky times.

7. Arranged Marriage

Families or parents might arrange a union if they have religious or cultural reasons. It’s a way for parents to feel secure about their adult children’s future happiness through the union’s guaranteed financial or social status. It may not happen often in the western parts of the world, but it’s a common form of marriage in South and East Asia.

Notably, arranged matrimony isn’t the same as a forced marriage. Forced wedlock happens due to threats or coercion. Arranged couples get together after freely accepting the arrangement or proposal their parents or family recommend.

8. Convenience Marriage

A marriage of convenience may or may not involve legal documentation. Sometimes, people agree to an emotional union because staying together benefits them socially or financially. They might stick together to continue splitting the rent or pursuing the same career, such as political ambitions.

Those with legal arrangements might do so because they need a legal benefit. Someone might marry a person to gain citizenship faster, benefit from the joint tax filing system or join their health insurance plan.

Although some individuals might see these relationships as taking advantage or tricking a system, the two people involved can have good intentions. One person might not be able to receive expensive medical care without their partner’s health insurance coverage. Another may have wanted to marry in the coming years, but their green card expiration date is soon. It all depends on the people involved and what’s happening in their lives.

Make Your Relationship What You Want

Marriages don’t have the same definitions. There are many types of marriages people create to live their happiest lives. Consider whether these partnerships would feel fulfilling to you and discuss it if you’re currently in a relationship. Everyone who wants to get married deserves a fulfilling union, which could involve personalizing the definition with these options or others.

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