The 12 Relationship Archetypes:
Hidden Patterns That Can Make or Break Your Love Life
What makes a couple relationship work? There is no standard formula. Every relationship is unique. And yet most relationships, for better or worse, fall into an archetypal pattern that, when identified, can add extra meaning and purpose to the relationship and provide extra “sticking power” for the couple when times get tough. On the flip side, recognizing unproductive or dysfunctional archetypal patterns playing out in a relationship can help the individuals involved understand what’s happening and to move on if necessary.
The word “archetype” translated from the Latin noun, archetypum, means “original pattern; beginning, origin.” A collectively inherited unconscious pattern that is universally present, archetypes operate through individual psyches, in couples, and in groups. The Great Mother, the Warrior, the King, the Trickster, the Hero, the Wise Woman, the Sage, the Shadow—unconsciously we recognize these famous archetypal themes when they show up in movies and stories. But it’s not always easy to recognize an archetype when it shows up in ourselves or in our relationships because the number of archetypes we dance with in life is many and their patterns vary widely.
Couples usually don’t realize it, but much of the foundation for their desire to pair may be archetypal in nature—inherited yearnings and potentials of fulfillment that, when recognized and actualized, have the power to transform the entire relationship.
The 12 archetypes we’ve identified are:
1. The Power Couple – Purpose: achieve status, financial, business and material goals.
2. The New Age Couple – Purpose: personal and spiritual exploration and development.
3. The Family Oriented Couple – Purpose: raise children, care for extended family, further family legacy.
4. The Religious Oriented Couple – Purpose: to serve god together, support religious community, promote positive religious messages and works.
5. The Service Oriented Couple – Purpose: make a positive difference in the world by helping others, caring for the environment, etc.
6. The Adventurous Couple – Purpose: pursue new and stimulating experiences through sports, travel, alternative lifestyles, etc.
7. The Unhappy Couple – Purpose: abdicate personal responsibility by blaming partner and circumstances for dissatisfaction and unhappiness (though they usually are unaware and would never admit that). While they may express unhappiness verbally and even physically, they both accept the status quo neither acts to make any changes.
8. The Intellectual Couple – Purpose: pursue and share intellectual pursuits such as education, reading, writing, teaching, discussion, etc.
9. The Co-dependent Couple – Purpose: take care of each other, the helper needs to help as much as the helpee needs help.
10. The Hedonistic Couple – Purpose: seeking pleasure in any form (drugs, sex, crime, etc.), “if it feels good, do it.”
11. The Survival Oriented Couple – Purpose: focused on meeting daily survival needs, assist each other to survive physically, financially, mentally and/or emotionally (extreme examples might include homeless couples, mental health patients, off-the-grid survivalists, etc.).
12. The Soul Mate Couple – Purpose: leverage their deep, extraordinary, multi-dimensional connection/partnership to live life to the fullest and fulfill their individual and combined potential. Usually includes a combination of the above archetypes. (this is a powerful archetype that many yearn and strive for)
Notice that some archetypes might be perceived as desirable and others undesirable. Their commonality is that they are deeply rooted, unconscious forces driving relationship choices. We all know couples who don’t appear compatible or happy yet find each other and stay together, a testament to the power of these archetypes.
The value of these archetypes is that when you recognize your pattern you can make choices from awareness instead of unconsciousness to co-create the life and relationship you really want.