Quarrels Between Couples Fall Into Just Two Categories

by | Aug 22, 2019


If you have a significant other, think about your last few quarrels. What were they about?

Research on over 3,500 couples out of Baylor University concludes that no matter the specific topic of fights between couples, all couple quarrels fall within two categories:

(1) Threat: In this category one partner feels if they are being unjustly blamed or controlled or that the other partner is being overly critical.

(2) Neglect: One partner perceives that the other is failing to make desired contributions or investments in the relationship. This often manifests itself in the feeling that “you don’t really care about me.”

It may be important to understand the two categories of conflict because follow up research suggests that how conflicts are best rectified differs depending on category:

With respect to conflicts based on threat, partners tend to want their partner to “passively disengage” – meaning back off and relinquish power. Aggrieved partners in the threat category are “more interested in receiving demonstrations of deference, expressions of appreciation and reductions in hostility.”

With neglect conflicts, the partner feeling the neglect tends to want demonstrated engagement such as increased affection, attention and communication.

Interestingly, in many cases what is not wanted is an apology. The lead researcher noted that “an apology can be ‘slippery’; it can simply be a way to find the off-switch to a conflict; a way of saying, ‘What do I need to do to get you to shut up? If I apologize, will you stop?'” As we all know, just stopping an argument doesn’t necessarily end the dispute.

So, when looking to resolve and argument with a partner, it may be helpful to recognize the category in which your dispute resides. Try to recognize if you “controlling” or “neglecting” your partner or whether your partner is controlling or neglecting you. Realizing the root of the issue may help in leading to a resolution as expressing feelings such as “I feel neglected” may be more effective than “you are lazy – you never empty the dishwasher.”


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