Categories of Functional Romantic Relationships
I would like to posit a theory about levels of functional romantic relationships and how those levels can help people define their relationships and look for ways to improve. Naturally, this is based on generalizations and is presented for purposes of generating thought. Your specific relationship may not match anything presented.
The topic here is functional romantic relationships. This assumes that the relationship is ongoing and his not unhealthy for the persons involved. I'm not discussing relationships where the participants are dangerous or extremely stupid.
I've noticed, through observation, that there seem to be three types, or levels, of working romantic relationships. I've also noticed that the type affects the apparent happiness of the relationship. Please note that these types are generalizations and that most relationships are a mix of types usually heavier in one or the other. Sometimes a relationship may be one type for one participant and another type for the other participant.
The first type is the Tolerant Type. In this type, the participants have conflicts in philosophy or practice yet they tolerate these conflicts for the sake of relationship. The classic example is the woman who feels neglected when her husband spends all his time watching sports. She wants to do one thing; he wants to do something else. They tolerate each other. This conflict may be the only one or there may be others. In either case, the nature of the conflicts is insufficient cause to end the relationship.
The second type is the Compatible Type. Now, there may still be differing philosophies and practices but they do not conflict. If the same guy is watching his sports and does not care that his wife is happily out doing her own thing, there is no conflict. Obviously, as long as neither party is doing something harmful on his or her own, this is a better relationship than the Tolerant Type. Each participant has a life outside of the relationship and is not suffering, even mildly, for the behavior of the other. Again, I'm assuming no harmful behavior such as emotional neglect or communication breakdowns.
The third type is better yet. It is the Complimentary Type. If you remember from old math classes, they taught you (or tried to) that complimentary angles are angles that add up to form a right angle. The same applies in this type of relationship. Both participants do things that encourage and actively support the other member. A good example would be a couple where one produces a product and the other sells the product. The producer may not be good at selling but brilliant at producing. The seller may be completely incapable of making a product but can sell anything. Each of them gives to the other to make the other's life better, without making any real sacrifices of his or her own.
My examples above were chosen to be blatantly obvious. There are many real instances of each relationship type in the world and what is complimentary to one couple would be horrific for another. Relationships are made between people. Every person is different so every relationship is different.
Despite the differences, I think the relationship types still apply. That means the concepts can be applied for the purpose of bettering one's relationship. The first step is to try to determine the level you are currently at. Then decide what little step you can make to improve things.
In the tolerant example I gave above, imagine how much better it would be if the guy examined the relationship. He could think, "There's no way I'm giving up my Sunday football. Maybe she'll stop griping so much if I stop throwing my dirty underwear on the bedroom floor." He could make some simple, little sacrifice that would eventually become habit and still make things better for his wife. If he's right, he may be able to watch his game in a little more peace. That little change could move them closer to compatible in the spectrum of relationship. Just imagine the progress he could make if he asked her why she stopped writing and then encouraged her to take that up again. She could be working away (in the other room) and feel like he's supporting her in her goals, all while getting her out of his face while the game is on. Of course, she could do any of this kind of thing to him too.
All that awareness of the relationship and manipulation could make the relationship better, provided that the participants don't become cruel about their manipulations. It's better if they are respectful about such things. Supposedly, the people do care about each other and would prefer that they were all happy and fulfilled. As long as they can maintain that part of their relationship, even when tired, things can only get better by comparing the relationship to this scale.