There are several contrasts between the two relationships. These are partly due to the personalities of all persons involved, the goals of both relationships, and the way they treat one another.
Adele Ratignolle is a traditional Victorian wife. She is compliant with the expectations bestowed upon the women of her time. She was the “angel in the household,” which is a nineteenth century term commonly applied to the “role” of women in life. As such, Adele was a nurturer whose duties were to admire her husband, tend to her household, nurture, and love her children. This is evident throughout the novel, and she and Edna even get in an argument on whether a woman should ever sacrifice herself for her children. Therefore, since the Ratignolles adhere firmly to the social expectations of the families of their time, we can conclude that their marriage is harmonious, mutually respectful, and, perhaps, it may even be a happy one.
On the other hand, there are a couple of unique situations pertaining Edna that directly affect her marriage in a negative way.
First, she is not Creole, like the rest of the people around her. Her values and personal views are different from those of Adele and her family.
The second situation in Edna’s life is that unlike Adele, or anyone else in Edna’s “set,” Edna is going through a great personality and existential crisis. Her awakening is hitting hard. As a result, she starts to question everything that surrounds her, as well as her past, her present, and her future. Surely, this affects her marriage, which is a result of the past that she is just now starting to analyze and reflect upon.
Mrs. Pontellier is beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relations as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight—perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.
The result of Edna’s crisis reflects upon her marriage. She moves out of her family home to live independently in the “pigeon hole”. She also starts an affair with Alcée Arobin, bets on horses, gives her husband the responsibility of their children, and does all of this in the public eye, which is a blatant show of “insubordination” by the standards of her time. It would be a huge sign of disrespect towards her husband.
Therefore, we can conclude that the Pontelliers were pretty chaotic and dysfunctional, compared to the Ratignolles. After all, the issues with Edna were partly caused by her husband’s lack of candor, which could not match Edna’s need for passion and adventure. The stagnant role of the women of her time was simply not for Edna. Tragically, Edna’s awakening came a little too late in her life.