We all know how marriage is supposed to work. When there’s a conflict, you either have a big dramatic blow up and are miserable until one of you gives in. At that point you make up with good sex. Or maybe you have a conflict, and you both go your separate ways, and comedy ensues until one of you comes around and admits the error of his ways. Or you have a harmonious relationship because the wife dominates the marriage and the husband is slavishly devoted and fearful of her.
Oh wait, I’m sorry, I’m talking about TV marriages, of course. In real life, we all know that there’s only one way to work out our differences: have a long, in-depth conversation until both people feel validated. Then rationally work out a compromise or solution. Fights with screaming are bad. Avoiding fights is also bad. Your marriage will never survive if you don’t learn to fight properly.
Wrong again! According to John Gottman, there are three stable marriage types, which have their own distinctive conflict resolution style. John Gottman is a recognized expert on marriage, and I personally recommend his book, Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. So without further ado, here are the three types he describes:
- Validators: These are the couples that our culture admire. They are the “by the book” gold standard. They use lots of communication skills to hash out every disagreement.
- Avoidant: These are those couples that never fight. People often find their relationship suspicious and warn that if they don’t fight, their marriage will fail. However, according to Dr. Gottman, these couples simply value harmony over being right or winning. This can be a very stable type of marriage.
- Volatile: These are the couples that fight loudly and passionately. They want to get their way or win the fight and are willing to throw domestic harmony to the wind. They may be unpleasant to be around, but their marriage can be just as stable as the avoidant couple.
So what kind of marriage do you have? Are you passionate and volatile, fighting and making up all the time? Are you quiet and peaceful, letting things go because you’d rather have harmony than disagreement? Or do you like to talk things through until everyone has said everything there is to say? Wear your style with pride! Don’t let society or TV or even O Magazine tell you what kind of marriage you “should” have.