Definition of a Companionate Marriage

Married Couple
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You may be in a companionate marriage and not even know it. A companionate marriage is based on two spouses having mutual interests in their careers and children. Spouses in companionate marriages believe in the equality of men and women and believe their roles in marriage are interchangeable. Many modern marriages take this form. Learn the differences between a traditional and companionate marriage below as well as more about what a companionate marriage entails.

What Is Companionate Marriage?

Companionate marriage is a union in which the partners decide not to have children, reserve the right to divorce amicably with mutual consent, and in which neither party would have any financial or economic claim on the other. 

Traditional Versus Companionate

In a traditional marriage, typically the husband is the breadwinner while the wife is a stay-at-home mom or general homemaker. The difference between traditional marriage and companionate marriage is those companionate unions are based on the spouses having mutual interests in their careers and children. There are additional marriage models to consider as well, such as a rescue marriage or romantic marriage, which may have an overlap in values and beliefs.

While the above describes a typical, modern companionate marriage, it may also be considered as the following in other areas and cultures:

  • A promise to never procreate
  • Cohabitation
  • Same-sex marriages
  • Trial marriages before children are born

The main difference between a trial marriage and a companionate marriage is that typically a trial marriage is an arrangement by which a couple lives together for a duration of time to learn if they are compatible for marriage for the long-term. Companionate marriages do not hold any legal responsibility to each other regarding finances.

Needs of Companionate Marriages

Both individuals in a companionate marriage need self-awareness and self-confidence in order for the marriage to be successful. Without trust, friendship, commitment, and shared values, a companionate marriage may be difficult to maintain.

"At the core of a companionate marriage is friendship and trust and the belief that both partners have equal responsibility in all domains of the marriage. They share the economic burdens and child rearing, and they believe that both partners' sexual needs and wishes should be clearly articulated and fulfilled." — ​ The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee

Wallerstein and Blakeslee go on to say that individuals in a companionate marriage need to recognize that when the children are young and career issues are pressing, their own needs as individuals have to be placed on the back burner. They go on to say that, "These couples know that people living side by side experience inevitable conflicts that must be confronted openly. They understand that mutual commitment is what holds the marriage together."

The Benefits Are Common Interests

Companionate marriage is the most common form of marriage among younger couples, according to Wallerstein and Blakeslee. Typically, companionate marriages prioritize communication and support between spouses over inheritance and other materializations and rid themselves of any financial or economic claims to each other. The benefits of companionate marriages typically surround common interests including but not limited to:

  • Birth control
  • Careers
  • Children
  • Divorce by mutual consent
  • Equality of the genders
  • Friendship
  • Work/life balance

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