Parallel Relationships

There are three primary relationship types that have been identified my marriage experts. While other names are sometimes applied, these three styles are often referred to as complementary, symmetrical, and parallel relationships. Complementary and symmetrical relationships contain both pros and cons regarding marital adjustment and satisfaction. It is widely believed that marriages based upon parallel relationships are the most healthy, successful, and happy.

Complementary relationships reflect the principle that “opposites attract”. This style is based upon the maximization of differences between partners. [See previous article.] Symmetrical relationships reflect the principle that “birds of a feather flock together”. This style is based upon the minimization of differences between partners. [See previous article].

Parallel relationships are based upon a synthesis of both complementary and symmetrical styles. In other words, it is a blend of the best of both worlds. Parallel relationships incorporate symmetrical aspects in that they rely upon important similarities such as sharing a common set of principles emotionally, morally, religiously, and in other ways. This forms a solid basis of comfort and security upon which the relationship can grow. However, parallel relationships also include components of complementary relationships such as differences in personality, interests, abilities and strengths. This provides for balance in the relationship and the potential fulfillment of previously unmet needs.

For the above reasons, parallel relationships are considered interdependent in nature. Each spouse emphasizes the merit of specific identity as a couple. However, they also recognize the need to maintain their own identity separate from the marriage. Each mate values and celebrates not only the common characteristics that form cohesion in the relationship, but also the distinctive, unique qualities that bring a sense of completeness to the union. They value the partnership without losing a healthy sense of self.

These paradoxical dynamics also allow for the development of practical boundaries, mutual accountability, and shared responsibility for the maintenance of the relationship. There is a strong emphasis on both participants being equal partners. In this way parallel relationships enjoy a high degree of mutuality or mutual dependence.

Articles in this series...

Complementary Relationships
Symmetrical Relationships
Parallel Relationships
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