The Love Lab: Which of these five types of couples are you?

By Chanyel Fritz Tome

Love may be in the air, but every love bird is not the same.

In fact, one may encounter one or more types of couples: the best friends couple, high school sweetheart couples, or maybe even a couple that is straight out of Romeo and Juliet. However, based on psychology and thousands of couple therapy sessions since 1986, the Gottman Institute's Love Lab identifies only five kinds of couples -- one of which is bound to fail.

If you have a partner in life, see which of these five types of couples you relate the most to.

1. Conflict Avoiders

These are the couples who minimize, if not actively avoid, conflict or misunderstanding. They will not ask for what they need from their significant other and instead look for common ground.

This kind of couple establishes their boundaries clearly and avoids them as much as possible. They consider themselves as separate people with separate interactions and try to achieve a balance of independence and interdependence.

While they generally are not honest in expressing what they want with their partners, they have a strong connection and are very caring for each other in the things that matter to both of them. They may not have the best communication, but their interaction is good enough for them -- and that is what ultimately matters.

2. Validating Couples

These couples are expressive of their feelings and are understanding, supportive, or empathic of their partner. They do not actively avoid conflict, but they will complain and even argue about certain topics. However, this kind of couple usually looks for a compromise or a solution that could work for both of them.

While this couple may argue about their problems, at the end of the day, their understanding and care for each other are what gets them through the end of the tunnel.

3. Hostile Couples

As the name suggests, these couples are almost always hostile to each other. Unlike validating couples, they are not willing to set aside their differences and will not try to look for a compromise. There is a high amount of defensiveness between the couple, and there is a lot of criticism and contempt in their relationship.

During their arguments, both of them would always reiterate their own opinion or point of view, and there would be no understanding or support for the opposing perspective. This is essentially a couple that argues all the time, red flags all around.

The only thing that keeps them from a complete breakdown of their relationship? One of them eventually withdraws from their argument.

4. Volatile Couples

Like hostile couples, they argue a lot. But they argue with respect to their significant other.

These couples are not afraid of conflicting perspectives, opinions, or feelings. In fact, they would go as far as persuading their partners to change their views. But they do not disrespect each other, even though there may be a lot of negative energy thrown around such as anger.

They value transparency and connection with each other, and there is a lot of overlap between the pair. They know that for as long as they are honest with each other, it does not matter if they argue a lot -- their relationship will remain strong.

5. Hostile-Detached Couples

Long story short, they are just as hostile as Hostile Couples. They would argue a lot, never settle their differences, and never look for a compromise. 

In Hostile Couples, one of them eventually backs down. But what happens when the other does not let their partner withdraw from their conflict? You get this kind of couple, where no one wins.

According to John Gottman, Ph.D., this is the kind of relationship that is bound to fail or break down, and the reason is simple: while Hostile Couples have a lot of negativity, they would at least regulate it. Hostile-Detached is just negativity all around with no mediation.

What makes these couples successful (or unsuccessful)?

While couple arguments and interactions can be as complex as they could be for each different type of couple, the key for a satisfactory relationship is actually quite simple -- it is the ratio of positive interactions to negative ones.

Positive interactions could range from giving gifts, compromising or setting aside your differences, to simply just thanking them, appreciating them, or empathizing with them. Meanwhile, negative ones include expressing anger with criticism or contempt.

To find the ratio of positive to negative interactions, Dr. Gottman and Robert Levenson conducted long-term studies on couples by asking them to resolve a conflict in 15 minutes.

For every negative interaction of a couple, there must be at least five positive ones. 

Any less than that will lead to escalating conflicts and unhappiness. In fact, if the ratio is less than one-to-one, the couple will be more than likely heading to a divorce.

To find out about your ratio if you have a partner, observe the interaction between you two. You may even use a journal to keep track of these interactions. If the number of positive interactions is less than the magical ratio, then consider making more positive interactions with your partner.

It's that magical ratio that makes a relationship stable, whatever type of couple there is.


Edited by Quian Vencel Galut
Previous Post Next Post