There are Five Types of Married Couples–Which One Are You?
Based on years of research into how married couples interact, John Gottman has sorted couples into five types: Conflict-Avoiding, Validating, Volatile, Hostile, and Hostile–Detached. Conflict-Avoiding, Validating, and Volatile couples are generally happy in their marriages while Hostile couples are unhappy but likely to remain married, and Hostile-Detached couples are unhappy and often headed toward divorce. Each type is different. How can you know what type of marriage you have and how likely you are to be happy or get divorced? Consider the following characteristics of each type of marriage and see if you recognize how you and your spouse interact.
1. Conflict Avoiders
These couples rarely attempt to persuade each other when they have a disagreement and concentrate instead on areas of agreement. They avoid conflict, don’t ask each other for what they need, and feel their relationship is generally happy. These couples are fairly independent, have clear boundaries, and separate interests. Conflict Avoiders can be close and caring in areas where they have common interests. They generally maintain a positive to negative interaction ratio of five to one, primarily by avoiding discussing any issue where they disagree.
2. Volatile Couples
Volatile couples are emotional about almost everything. When they disagree about something, they try to persuade their partner throughout the discussion and their disagreements are characterized by laughter, shared amusement, and humor. They love to argue, but don’t insult or criticize each other when having a disagreement. Volatile couples may express anger and insecurity during their discussions, but for the most part they stay connected with each other and are honest in their communications and interactions. Volatile couples rarely criticize each other and they take steps to repair any damage they may have done to their relationship when they finish arguing.
3. Validating Couples
These couples interact in a calm relaxed way. They can be emotional, but most of the time they are relaxed and reasonable when they interact. Validating couples emphasize supporting and understanding each other’s points of view in a debate rather than arguing or getting angry. These couples will only confront each other on certain topics while they consistently avoid raising touchy issues that might become competitive and turn into a power struggle. When they do become angry or competitive, they quickly recognize what is happening, calm themselves down, and compromise about the issue. When these couples are arguing, they only express mild emotions and quickly repair any damage done during the disagreement. Their ratio of positive to negative interactions is also above five to one.
4. Hostile Couples
Hostile couples interact like validating couples, except both partners are highly defensive during their disagreements. Generally, the husband is a validator and the wife an avoider. These couples criticize each other a great deal, often using statements such as “you always” and “you never.” They also whine a lot when they argue. During a disagreement, they spend a lot of time going over their own position and little time trying to understand their spouse’s position or supporting him or her. Hostile couples express a lot of contempt for each other during their debates and they are not happily married.
5. Hostile–Detached Couples
These couples are locked in a continuous war without a clear winner. They are frustrated with each other most of the time and can’t seem to find a way out of the on-going conflict. They criticize each other with a sense of detachment rather than honest emotion. Hostile-detached couples fight until one of them tries to back down, offers to compromise, or withdraw from the argument and repair the damage, but the other spouse won’t let him or her stop the fighting and make up. Instead, they are locked in a cycle of anger and frustration.
Hostile–detached couples often divorce, while hostile couples don’t. Why is that? Primarily because hostile couples can regulate their negative emotions, recognize they are getting angry, and make attempts to repair any damage done to their relationship when they realize an argument is getting out-of- hand. Hostile–detached couples can’t do that. Instead, their fights get nastier over time until they finally call it quits and divorce.
If you believe you are in a hostile—detached marriage and are thinking about a divorce, contact Harry L. Munsinger, a San Antonio Collaborative attorney to discuss your situation. He is a psychologist and attorney who can advise you about the best course forward. Call Harry at: 210-776-7707 for an appointment.