According to research conducted by the Gottman Institute, there are 5 main types of couples – all with their own distinct challenges, particularities, and communication needs.
Once you can identify which type of couple you and your partner are, it becomes much easier to navigate life and issues together. Keep reading to learn about the five types of couples, and how to identify which one you might be in:
Table of Contents
1. Conflict Avoiders
You might be in a conflict-avoiding relationship if you and your partner work to find common ground and compromise in most places in your relationship. If there are areas of your relationship that naturally lead to conflict, you work in advance to compromise and work towards finding common grounds to help you naturally avoid conflict.
Sometimes, this relationship might seem like the couple is avoiding expressing how they truly feel to avoid conflicts at all costs. You would rather keep the peace than bring up an issue, and often hope that things just “blow over”. For this couple, keeping the relationship strong is more important than openness and honesty about feelings or conflicts that arise.
Conflict-avoiding couples often have to work harder than others to balance independence and co-dependence. Regardless, they often depend heavily on one another and have a caring and trusting relationship. Although they’re less emotional and expressive than others, they work hard to focus on the positive aspects of their relationship to keep their lives and relationship calm and happy.
2. Volatile Couples
A relationship for volatile couples might feel heavily emotional. Any conflict that arises must be discussed immediately, and will keep going until you both get closure.
Even if you’re not fighting, you might find yourself in constant debate and banter – which can be argumentative or just for fun. Both partners love to debate and argue, but always ensure it doesn’t lead to disrespect, hurt, or insults toward one another.
Although arguments and debates are often seen as negative aspects of a relationship, this category of couples experience predominantly happy and positive experiences together. They aren’t afraid of expressing negativity, anger, or insecurities, and they know how to do it respectfully. This couple values connection, communication, and openness above solely keeping the peace.
3. Validating Couples
Validating couples find their relationship to be easy and calm. They don’t work to actively avoid conflicts or express every single feeling or emotion, but they do work to understand their partner’s point of view and are often very empathetic towards one another’s feelings.
They don’t run from their feelings and differences, but actively confront them. They might have some power struggles during conflicts and debates but for the most part, they can see one another’s viewpoints and compromise.
Regardless of the conflict they experience, they validate one another and offer support – which is why they are identified as a predominately happy couple.
4. Hostile Couples
Often this relationship has a lot of statements that sound like “you always do this” or “you never do that” statements, and quite a bit of whining. During conflicts, each partner repeats their perspective in attempts to have their partner understand their perspective – without providing much support or understanding of their partner themselves.
There are often feelings of contempt and disappointment in the relationship due to the lack of respect and communication between both partners.
5. Hostile-Detached Couples
If you often feel as though you and your partner are fighting on opposing forces and in constant battle, you might be in a hostile-detached relationship. Often faced with frustration, loneliness, and constant stand-offs with very few compromises or winners, these couples hit each other where it hurts.
There is a layer of emotional detachment and often a desire to hurt one another rather than come to a common agreement and move forward together. Unfortunately, these couples often end in a breakup or divorce if they don’t seek help or try to improve.
The Bottom Line
Conflict-avoiding, Validating, and Volatile couples are usually happier and less argumentative. Although every individual relationship has its ups and downs, these couples are more likely to navigate the challenges of life together and come out on the other side with a relationship that is strong and respectful.
The couples considered more “problematic” include the Hostile and Hostile-detached couples. Studies show that hostile couples will most likely stay together regardless of their anger toward one another, while hostile-detached couples often end up in divorce. If you’re both constantly arguing and unhappy, it might be time to seek a therapist or counsellor to help you get to the bottom of your anger and resentment.
Knowing which kind of relationship you’re in, even if it’s one of the notoriously unhappy ones, can be incredibly important. The first step to making improvements is being aware of where your relationship is headed – acceptance and communication are key.
Ultimately, although you might fit into one of these couples categories, relationships are ever-changing. You and your partner can grow and move into one of the other categories if you work together and put in the effort.