Good news! there is not just one type of couple that is well-functioning! According to the research of John Gottman, there are at least three distinct types of couples who can be successfully mated, the volatile couple, the validating couple, and the avoiding couple. Each one of these has a particular set of characteristics that make them distinct but compatible and each pairing focused on a different ingredient of the love cake (see post https://laveldanaylor.wordpress.com/2012/08/31/ingredients-of-a-love-cake/).
The Volatile Couple
For this couple, conflict represents an opportunity to express the internal life of an individual, a moment of deeper connection. Volatile couples value their individuality and have a high need to feel free to express their disagreements since they see the point of contention as representative of where the partners differ from each other. They are passionate and when in conflict, they may have raised voices, gesticulate wildly, and be very emotive. Successful Volatile Couples also soothe each other, use humor, and appreciate the other partner’s expressiveness while in a conflict.
The Validating Couple
Validating couples typically avoid conflict unless there was a very serious issue in the marriage. They rely on the marital friendship to weather conflicts and when in conflict, they look and sound very different from volatile couples–they rarely shout or become impassioned, they display minimal vocal responses (such as “mmmmhmmm” or “yeah”) when listening and these are done to illustrate support of the other partner and to tell the partner they are being understood. I have yet to see this type of couple in session and there may be a reason for that beyond coincidence. Research has shown that this type of couple has a higher level of couple satisfaction than Avoidant and Volatile Couples, respectively (Holman & Jarvis, 2003). This partner type is more invested in the we-ness than the me-ness (Volatile & Avoidant Couples promote me-ness) so to some degree this can be predicted merely based on what is emphasized in the pairing.
The Avoidant Couple
Avoidant couples minimize marital conflict. Similar to Volatile Couples, they value independence but uniquely, they are often distant from each other, demonstrating less sharing and companionship between partners than the other two types. But they are highly invested in the commitment aspect of partnering; thus, they tend to minimize problems and focus on the strengths of marriage. In spite of the high degree of individuality in this pairing, the couple will often end conversation on note of solidarity, demonstrating the choice they have made to be together.
Trouble can arise when partners are mismatched. Gottman’s research suggest that when certain mixes are paired, withdrawer-pursuer patterns emerge. Withdrawer-pursuer patterns are just as they sound, one partner tries to communicate with a partner that has stonewalled or shut down and these roles are fairly consistent in the relationship. this pattern is very difficult to live with for the long-haul but may be improved via marital therapy.
What kind of partnership are you in?
Gottman, J. M. (1999). The Marriage Clinic: A Scientifically Based Marital Therapy (1st ed.). W. W. Norton & Company.
Marital Typologies – Using Scientific Methods To Create Typologies – Family, Couples, and Marriages – JRank Articles http://family.jrank.org/pages/1113/Marital-Typologies-Using-Scientific-Methods-Create-Typologies.html#ixzz25VxDYPOL
Holman, T. B., & Jarvis, M. O. (2003). Hostile, volatile, avoiding, and validating couple-conflict types: An investigation of Gottman’s couple-conflict types. Personal Relationships, 10(2), 267–282. doi:10.1111/1475-6811.00049
For Therapy Services: The Key Counseling of SA