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12 Jul, 2024
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A Guide To Fighting Styles In Relationships - By Reshma

A Guide To Fighting Styles In Relationships – By Reshma


Fighting is good. Fighting is healthy. Especially when partners are able to discuss their grievances by listening and responding to one another. But the rule of thumb is that the ratio of calm moments to fighting moments must be much larger. The Gottman Institute has discovered the magic ratio as being 5:1. This means, there must be at least 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative reaction. Also your fighting style is more important than your fighting frequency. According to research studies, couple conflicts have been found to fall under one of four categories. Three of which are healthy, and one which is not.

1) Validating:
Couples who adopt this style of problem-solving acknowledge each other’s emotions as valid even in the middle of disagreements. They may not agree on the points made, but they are able to validate each other because mutual ‘respect’ is the cornerstone of their relationships. These couples generally are calm and have calm discussions. They know how to negotiate, compromise, empathise and more effort is directed into listening and understanding the other’s perspective.

2) Volatile:
In this style, couples thrive on conflict. Their fights are passionate and loud, but they make up passionately as well. such couples see themselves on equal footing. They are very open and loud about their feelings – good or bad, and take their independence very seriously. However, their intense fights are only a small fraction of an otherwise loving relationship.

3) Conflict Avoidance:
‘Avoiding’ couples are the polar opposites of volatile partners. They brush their issues under the carpet and make light of their differences. They are respectful in their arguments, collaborative and very polite. They focus more on their similarities than their differences and derive happiness from that. They don’t sweat the small stuff and let go very quickly.

4) Hostile:
These couples argue like nobody’s business, frequently and destructively. Their disagreements are coated with sarcasm, putdowns, verbal abuse and insults. They are clearly more inclined towards negative interactions than positive. In fact, their conflicts lead to bitterness, resentment and cause more harm. According to research, hostile couple discussions are filled with criticism, contempt, silent treatment and a lot of defensiveness. They do not know how to listen to each other, and indulge in other relationship damaging behaviours to deal with such disagreements. They are emotionally detached from each other, and can be quite indifferent, rude and disrespectful. Such couples can make others around them feel quite awkward and therefore may be avoided by their social circle in the long run.

Therefore to conclude, even though the first three styles are different from each other, they can promote a healthy partnership as long as they maintain the 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.

Validators seem to be extremely concerned about each other’s feelings, and therefore balance high flying emotions with humour, hugs, affection and other tender moments.

Avoiders, even though they may not be outspoken, can have it healthy because they don’t have a lot of negative feelings to overcome. They know when to let things slide and when to avoid an argument.

So first three styles are quite affirmative in nature and they can outweigh the harmful parts of the relationship.

However, the fourth is a red flag and couples who adopt this style of conflict put their relationship at risk. They never seem to be able to find a balance and their relationship sits on rocky foundation. If this is your conflict style it would be good to seek professional help with a counsellor who can help you take a step back, pause, breathe and help you re-establish sound healthy rules for fighting so you save your marriage (if you would like it to).


letting go in relationships

By Reshma Raju
M.Sc Psychology,
Certified Women’s Health Coach (USA)


So what is your fighting style? Do you need relationship advice? Ask your questions & Reshma will get back!